Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageDevotees throng Indian flashpoint temple, but no women

By Bhuvan BAGGA (AFP)     Nov 17, 2018 in World

Tens of thousands of pilgrims thronged one of Hinduism's holiest temples in southern India Saturday as it reopened amid high security, but women aged between 10 and 50 were absent despite a court order allowing them to enter.

Hindu activists meanwhile imposed a strike to protest that the security measures were impeding their ability to worship at the Sabarimala shrine, closing shops and reducing traffic to a trickle.

India's Supreme Court ruled in September that all females, including those of menstruating age, could enter the shrine perched in a tiger reserve in the southern state of Kerala.

But when the temple reopened for several days last month, Hindu hardliners clashed with police, assaulted journalists and prevented the court order from being implemented.

Hindu devotees crowd the the Lord Ayyappa temple but no women between the ages of 10 and 50 were amo...
Hindu devotees crowd the the Lord Ayyappa temple but no women between the ages of 10 and 50 were among them despite a court order
ARUN SANKAR, AFP

With thousands of extra riot police on duty and police barricades set up, the hilltop temple reopened late on Friday a day ahead of the start of a Hindu festival period.

Among the several hundred thousand people who have registered to pray at the temple over the coming weeks are around 700 women, setting the stage for a major showdown.

However, no women have yet tried to approach the site ahead of a hearing next week at the Supreme Court of a motion announced late Friday by the board managing the temple site.

It aims to ask the court, likely on Monday, to allow more time to admit women, citing the lack of infrastructure following major floods in August, a spokesman told AFP.

On January 22 the Supreme Court will also hear challenges to its original September ruling, one of a series of recent liberal decisions including the decriminalisation of gay sex and of adultery.

- Activist turned back -

One woman who did want to get to Sabarimala on Friday was activist Trupti Desai.

Several hundred thousand people have registered to pray at the temple over the coming weeks  includi...
Several hundred thousand people have registered to pray at the temple over the coming weeks, including around 700 women
ARUN SANKAR, AFP

But a crowd of around 500 people staged a sit-in and prevented her from leaving Kochi airport and late Friday she and several women companions flew back to Mumbai, Indian media reported.

"We tried to hire taxis several times but the agitators are not allowing them to take us. They have threatened violence if they do," Desai told Indian television.

Separately late Friday police arrested another woman, K.P Sasikala, a local community leader, for seeking to defy a ban on spending the night at the temple site.

Sasikala is over 50 so Hindu organisations are not opposed to her entering the site.

India's Supreme Court has ruled that all females could enter the shrine but women have been abs...
India's Supreme Court has ruled that all females could enter the shrine but women have been absent from the crowds of pilgrims thronging the site
ARUN SANKAR, AFP

Instead they were incensed that restrictions were being imposed on pilgrims and called the local strike for Saturday.

"Hindu community leaders called for the strike and we support it," P.S Sreedharan Pillai, the local president of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) told AFP.

"The police are putting restrictions on devotees who want to go there and pray," Pillai added.

A few protestors pelted stones at public buses on the roads in some parts of the state, a Kerala police official told AFP.

Local media reports said about 2,000 protestors gathered around a police station in Pathanamthitta district, 65 kilometres (40 miles) from the temple, where Sasikala was being held.

Hindu organisations called a strike Saturday in protest at the security measures which they say are ...
Hindu organisations called a strike Saturday in protest at the security measures which they say are impeding pilgrims trying to worship at the temple
ARUN SANKAR, AFP

"Sasikala was detained as the police had instructed that devotees will be not allowed to stay around the temple at night, which she insisted," Kerala police spokesman Pramod Kumar told AFP.

Women activists say the ban on women between 10 and 50 at Sabarimala reflects an old view that connects menstruation with impurity.

They argue that women are allowed in most Hindu temples and the practice at Sabarimala is part of their tradition, and not anti-women.

More about India, Religion, Gender, Politics
More news from
Latest News
Top News