Protests Turn Violent After Women Defy Temple Ban in India

Some 5 Million Indian Women Form Massive Human Chain for Gender Equality (PHOTO)

India protesters carry a picture of the Hindu deity Ayyappa at a demonstration following the entry of two women at the Sabarimala temple, in Kochi in southern Kerala state on January 2, 2019.

The Supreme Court ruling drew the ire of India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose supporters have threatened and attacked women trying to enter the hilltop temple. Though the government claimed that the women's wall had nothing to do with Sabarimala, the Opposition parties believed that it was aimed at facilitating the women's entry into the temple. She said that they reached Pampa, the foothills on Tuesday (1 January) night and sought help from the police in visiting the temple.

Images show Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini hurrying inside with their heads bowed and wearing black tunics.

Some 5 million women in the Indian southern state of Kerala formed a 620-kilometer (385-mile) human chain on Tuesday to demand equal gender rights, the India Today reported. They have become the first women to offer prayers at Sanctum sanctorum of Lord Ayyappa shrine since the Supreme Court overturned the centuries-old tradition past year.

Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon as protests and clashes between rival groups erupted across the southern state of Kerala, local media reported.

The Supreme Court has agreed to re-examine its decision to lift the ban later this month in response to 49 petitions filed against it. Opponents of the ruling say the celibacy of the temple's presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is protected by India's Constitution, and that women of all ages can worship at other Hindu temples.

"The temple has now been closed for cleaning ritual following this incident where the women forcefully entered the temple".

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Two women devotees, below the age of 50 years, entered the Sabarimala temple on early Wednesday morning. The controversy over Sabarimala is not the first time the entry of women in religious spaces has sparked debate in India.

Kerala former chief minister V S Achyuthanand has stated that the government has taken wrong step in the Sabarimala row which will lead to the downfall of Pinarayi Vijayan government, which will soon turn into reality.

A number of Muslim women also took part in the campaign and they carried banners with messages like "neither we are impure nor second rate citizens".

What happened when women finally entered the temple?

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The possibility of more confrontations was raised by a call from an umbrella group of right-wing Hindu groups in Kerala, the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, which is supported by the BJP, for a state-wide protest strike on Thursday.

They had tried to visit Sabarimala Temple in December 2018 but failed amidst massive protests.

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