Women form human chain in Mumbai to support Kerala 'Women's Wall'

Women form human chain in Mumbai to support Kerala 'Women's Wall'

Indian police fired tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons as protests and clashes erupted across the southern state of Kerala after two women entered the flashpoint Sabarimala Temple, local media reported. Protesters also clashed with police and some were later detained.

Despite the Supreme Court's verdict on September 28 previous year, permitting women in the 10-50 age group, no children or young women in the "barred" group were able to offer prayers at the shrine following frenzied protests by a section of devotees and some right-wing outfits.

The BJP and Sangh Parivar activists blocked National Highways and forced shops to close in many places. A cop was injured in stone pelting. News channels reported the chief priest briefly shut the temple for "purification" rituals after the women visited.

As the fight for women's entry into the Sabarimala temple, despite a Supreme Court order, reaches a feverish pitch, satire articles and fake photos have jumped into the melee as well. The group consisted of six men in addition to the two women, who had covered their faces.

"Police are bound to offer protection to anyone wanting to worship at the shrine". Bindu told media that they entered the temple via the VIP lounge and did not take the traditional "pathinettam padi" (holy steps leading to sanctum sanctorum). "We walked two hours, entered the temple around 3.30am and did the darshan", the woman said, referring to a ritual of standing in front of the temple's Hindu image.

India's Supreme Court past year voided the ban on women aged 10-50 from entering the temple.

The restriction on women at Sabarimala, situated on top of a 915m hill in a tiger reserve that takes hours to climb, reflects a belief - not exclusive to Hinduism - that menstruating women are impure.

On Tuesday, millions of women formed a human chain more than 375 miles long from Kasargod in the northern part of the state to Thiruvananthapuram, the southernmost city and the state capital, to support gender equality.

"There was an elaborate arrangement for them to come just after the temple was opened early morning", said the officer, who declined to be identified fearing reprisals from protesters.

The Supreme Court has agreed to re-examine its decision to lift the ban, after numerous legal challenges were brought against it. For the first time in the history, the temple has been closed due to a breaking of tradition. Their entry at Sabarimala was taboo for generations and formalised by the Kerala High Court in 1991.

The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP)'s Kerala state president P S Sreedharan Pillai called it "a conspiracy by the atheist rulers to destroy the Hindu temples", and said his party will "support the struggles against the destruction of faith by the Communists". Instead the state is run by a coalition of left-wing parties which have said they will enforce the court ruling.

However, the Left government remains firm in its resolve to stand by the Supreme Court verdict.

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