Clashes as Indian temple prepares to accept women

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NILACKAL: Clashes erupted in India yesterday as traditionalists tried to stop women visiting one of Hinduism’s most sacred temples, with police waving batons charging stone-throwing protesters.

Devotees opposed to allowing women into the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala earlier surrounded and intimidated journalists, including one from media.

Two other female journalists were reportedly injured. Even before the police charge, several people had blood streaming down their faces, suggesting further clashes had taken place.

Last month India’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on all females of menstruating age, judged between 10 and 50, entering and praying at the hilltop temple.

This enraged traditionalists, including supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with thousands protesting in the days before the scheduled opening yesterday afternoon.

Kerala’s state government said it would enforce the court ruling and deployed 500 extra police to ensure free access to the remote complex, which is reached by an uphill trek that takes several hours.

At Nilackal, a base camp below the temple, police cleared protestors early yesterday morning and arrested seven people who were stopping vehicles.

“Anyone who wants to go to the temple will be able to do so without hindrance,” said police chief Manoj Abraham. —Agencies

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