One person was killed and at least 15 injured in violence across southern India’s Kerala state which broke out after two women defied traditionalists to enter one of Hinduism’s holiest temples, something that was previously banned.
Clashes were reported across the state after the two women activists, who were escorted by police, entered the Sabarimala temple in a pre-dawn operation on Wednesday to enter the religious temple.
The person who died was part of a BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) demonstration yesterday and got injured when some stones were hurled towards the crowd.
The Supreme Court in September overturned a decades-old ban on women of menstruating age, between 10 and 50, being able to enter the gold-plated Sabarimala temple. Traditionally, the Hindu community see menstruation with negative connotations.
Demonstrations across the state have since erupted and police have fired tear gas to disperse crowds. Violent clashes have been reported outside the state parliament.
In a historic event, Bindu Ammini, 40, and Kanaka Durga, 39, devotees of the temple deity, Lord Ayyappa, entered around dawn on Wednesday morning and were able to see the ‘darshan’, the idol.
In the past, several women activists have made unsuccessful attempts to reach the temple since the order but faced stiff resistance from thousands of devotees including men and women, who see it as an attack on tradition.
Local media reports said the demonstrators from Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s BJP were hit by stones from a local office of the state´s ruling Communist party.
On 1 January, his left-wing coalition government organised a “women’s wall” – in which women from across Kerala formed a 620km (385-mile) human chain to protest against the ban.
Kerala remained tense on Thursday, and the police said additional forces had been deployed across the state to prevent further violence from breaking out.
The police Wednesday used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon to control clashes between the rival groups, largely conservatives and cadres of the state´s ruling left-wing parties.
Journalists were also assaulted during the disturbances in the state´s capital, Thiruvananthapuram, and nearby Kollam city.
Women are still barred from a handful of Hindu temples in India. The entry of women at Sabarimala was taboo for generations and formalised by the Kerala High Court in 1991.