Sabarimala: Hartal called in Kerala after Hindu woman leaders arrest

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About 700 women have registered to pray at the temple in coming weeks, but none has yet made it to the hilltop.

Indian police arrested 68 people taking part in protests around a flashpoint Hindu temple, after a plea to the country's supreme court on Monday for more time to follow an order to let women enter. Despite the police efforts, Desai was not allowed to leave the airport, forcing her to return to Mumbai late night yesterday.

Police say about 800 women between the ages of 10 and 50 have registered online to visit the shrine during the pilgrimage season, but none so far have requested official protection for the trek, which involves a almost three-mile walk to reach the temple. Many devotees were assaulted and attacked by the police, the visuals of which were aired by Janam TV from the Sannidhanam.

The ban reflected an old but still prevalent view in some areas that connects menstruation with impurity in Hinduism.

While the Kerala government is trying hard to see that the apex court verdict is implemented, the opposition parties are up in arms against violation of the temple tradition.

On Friday wet weather was making it hard to reach the site, and among those that did few were in favour of women being allowed. They all are not Sangh Parivar activists who reached there to create trouble.

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Trupti Desai, an activist from the state of Maharashtra, had announced that she would arrive in Kerala early Friday with several other women and that they would attempt to enter the temple the following day. "It feels sad that the devotees of Lord Ayyappa are abusing and threatening us", Desai told reporters here. I would appeal to the government to provide a security which can take women to the temple.

At the same time, he condemned the government's decision to make strict dress code to police in Sabarimala.

"We are planning to extend the protest to six or seven states".

"We are at a standstill and now the situation is becoming even worse", said Sasikumar Varma, a top representative of the Pandalam royal family that has been traditionally involved in the temple's management.

"The communists (in Kerala's government) are atheists and want to destroy the Sabarimala temple culture", the head of the BJP in the state, P.S Sreedharan Pillai, told AFP.

The region has been increasingly tense with Hindu organisations and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) opposing the Supreme Court order to let women in the temple.

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