Protests Turn Violent After Women Defy Temple Ban in India

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The organizations which throughout the season-since the shrine opened for Thulam monthly pooja, on October 17 in the just-ended year- succeeded in preventing menstruating women from entering the shrine were quite obviously unguarded when Bindu and Kanakadurga, hailing from Koyilandi and Perinthalmanna, managed to sneak into the shrine, jettisoning a tradition strictly upheld by right-wing organizations and conservatives.

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.

India's Supreme Court ordered a lifting of the ban in September. It is yet to be confirmed if the women are in the barred age group; however, they claim they are below 50 years of age. "They (the two parties) want to gain sentiments of some of the pilgrims and try to create some kind of anti-LDF attitude as if it's (the) LDF which has taken the decision (to allow women of all age groups into the shrine)", Reddy said. Sasikala said the protests would continue till Pinarayi Vijayan resigns as chief minister. Per the BBC, protesters have since attacked women who've attempted to enter the temple.

The pair were legally allowed to do so after the Indian Supreme Court reached a landmark decision last September to remove the ban on women aged between 10 and 50 to worship in the temple.

For centuries, women of menstruating age have been banned from the Sabarimala temple in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The police spokesperson said demonstrators blocked several roads and threw rocks at officers. Police used stun grenades, tear gas shells and water cannons to disperse the protesters. A video from a police official posted online showed them in the temple with their heads covered.

"We gathered to express solidarity for gender equality and what our sisters were doing in Kerala".

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State BJP chief P.S. Sreedharan Pillai said the Kerala government will face the "wrath" of Lord Ayyappa.

On the same day, thousands of women took part in the state-wide protest by forming a 620 kilometer (385 mile) human chain, termed the "women's wall", calling for gender equality and access to the Ayyappa temple.

Extending support to the campaign, women from several organisations and social activists came together to form a almost one km-long human chain from Dadar Chowpatty to Shivaji Park in Mumbai on Tuesday evening.

The Supreme Court is to start hearing a legal challenge to its ruling on 22 January. "Others believe it's because they are of childbearing age - fertile and thus a temptation to Lord Ayyappa". They urged the government, political parties, other organisations and public to cooperate for the smooth functioning of the tourism sector.

Many Hindu groups as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party fiercely oppose the court ruling.

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