Published: Thu, October 18, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

Sabarimala temple reopens amidst protests, violence

Sabarimala temple reopens amidst protests, violence

Clashes erupted on Wednesday as Hindu hardliners prevented women visiting one of India's most sacred temples, with baton-waving police charging stone-throwing protesters.

"Police were forced to intervene when some protesters started attacking media personnel", said district collector PB Nooh, stressing that the administration will make sure the pilgrimage was not affected.

Sabarimala: Amid violent protests, the doors of Sabarimala temple in Kerala opened on Wednesday for the first time since the Supreme Court lifted the centuries-old ban on entry of women of menstrual age.

Taking full control of Nilackal, police also warned against those who creating hurdles for pilgrims. Protestors pelted stones at the vehicles of media personnel, who were on their way to report the matter. But the protesters bullied and attacked some devotees and journalists elsewhere.

The protesters chased out another female journalist, working for a news portal, from a bus headed to the temple town.

Devotees opposed to allowing women into the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala earlier surrounded and intimidated journalists, including one from AFP.

Ten minutes into their trek, accompanied by a police force, the family had to abandon their plans.

Another woman devotee, Liby, who got down at the Pathanamthitta bus stand and was to board a bus to Nilackal, faced angry devotees who booed her. They were outraged by the Sabarimala temple chief's statement that he would allow women to enter only after a machine was invented to detect if they were "pure" - meaning that they weren't menstruating.

On Wednesday morning, Loknath Behra said there was a very strong police presence in and around Sabarimala. "None will be allowed to take law into their hands". Police have been deployed in large numbers in Nilackal, some 20 km away from the Sabarimala hilltop. On Tuesday, he met the Pandalam royal family, representatives of the Sabarimala Tantri family and other Hindu organisations to see how best the controversy can be resolved but the deadlock continued.

BJP state general secretaries, K. Surendran, M.T. Ramesh and Shobha Surendran were among those present. "Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad" led by Pravin Togadia and the "Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi", an outfit of devotees, have called a 24-hour-long hartal starting midnight.

Supporters of the ban have been angered by the state government's decision not to seek a review of the Supreme Court's ruling.

On September 28, a five-judge bench of the top court headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, allowed women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple saying that "no physiological and biological factor can be given legitimacy if it doesn't pass the test of conditionality".

Inspector General of Police Manoj Abraham said the police had registered three cases and seven people had been arrested. A meeting is underway at NCW office for further steps to be taken. "If any change is made they will have to kill us and go over our bodies". She later claimed to be protesting against attempts by young women to enter the temple and "defile" its premises.

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