Protests Paralyse Kerala After Women Defy Temple Ban
India’s Supreme Court in September ordered the lifting of the ban on women of menstruating age entering the Sabarimala hill temple, which draws millions of worshippers a year
Conservative Hindu groups paralysed Kerala on Thursday protesting against the state government for allowing two women to defy an ancient ban and enter the Sabarimala temple.
Many small businesses were shut after the groups called for a state-wide stoppage. Most bus services were halted and taxis were refusing to take passengers as some drivers said they feared they would be attacked.
Some protesters burst makeshift bombs outside a police station in capital Thiruvananthapuram, police said.
On Thursday morning, about 400 protesters - including some women - marched towards the main city junction in Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala, to stage a sit-in, shouting slogans and waving flags, with streets otherwise deserted.
They were backed by officials from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP.
India’s Supreme Court in September ordered the lifting of the ban on women of menstruating age entering the Sabarimala hill temple, which draws millions of worshippers a year.
The temple has refused to abide by the ruling and subsequent attempts by women to visit have been blocked by thousands of devotees.
On Wednesday, two women were escorted by police into the temple through a side gate. They offered prayers from the top of a staircase where they could see the deity below without drawing the attention of the priest or other devotees, a police official familiar with the operation said.
He did not wish to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
The Kerala state government is run by left-wing parties and has sought to allow women into the temple, a position that has drawn criticism from both of India’s main political parties, the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress.