Protests Erupt In Southern India After Women Defy Centuries-Old Temple Ban

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Two women devotees, below the age of 50 years, entered the Sabarimala temple on early Wednesday morning. The duo released a video of their darshan.

The police sources in Thiruvananthapuram, quoting DGP Loknath Behara, said details were being collected on the issue. The notion of a women's protest originated in the context of the actions of RSS-BJP members in the Sabarimala issue.

The temple has been at the centre of an increasingly angry showdown between Hindu traditionalists who support the longstanding ban and women activists who oppose it.

Widespread protests erupted in various parts of Kerala including Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram districts after two women of menstruating age entered Sabarimala temple in the wee hours of Wednesday.

Reacting to the two women entering the temple, Reuters reports, the state president of Kerala's BJP, P.S. Sreedharan Pillai, described the visit as "a conspiracy by the atheist rulers to destroy the Hindu temples".

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Identified as Bindu and Kanakadurga, the women began the trek to the temple at midnight with police escorts and reached the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine at 3.45 am, reports said. "Police offered us protection from Pamba, the foothhills", she told a TV channel.

Despite the ruling, demonstrators including Hindu priests and conservatives continued to block women of menstruating age from entering the centuries-old temple.

Violent protests continued to break out around the hilltop temple about, with police on 16 November lathi-charging devotees trying to stop women from entering.

The Women's Wall, under the patronage of the government of Kerala stands against such politics.

Trupti Desai said she would not be able to visit the shrine before January 20 when it closes as there was a heavy rush of pilgrims and due to her prior programmes, but added that she would go there the next time it reopens.

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In October, devotees clashed with police in a town near the temple leading to the arrest of more than 2,000 people.

Women from the state's large Christian and Muslim communities also joined the human chain. The BJP and the Congress-led UDF have been up in arms against the manner in which the Kerala government led by Pinarayi Vijayan has been "trying to use the apex court verdict to dilute the traditions of the temple".

One of the ways to enter the temple is to climb 18 holy steps - a sacred activity requiring a rigorous 41-day fast.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has backed the anti-women protesters despite the court orders, in what critics say is a move to fan Hindu religious sentiment to make inroads into the region.

It was not immediately clear how the women on this occasion managed to avoid devotees guarding the temple.

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