Sabarimala: Protesters block women from entering Hindu shrine

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While most of the organisations will hold peaceful protests, the Shiv Sena and the Ayyappa Dharma Sena said they will prevent women of the menstruating age group from entering the hill shrine.

Even before the police charge several people could be seen with blood streaming down their faces, suggesting further clashes had taken place with police nearer the temple.

Crowds of agitated protesters in Kerala attacked female devotees, many of whom turned back as a result.

Chennai: A woman devotee hailing from Kollam district in Kerala was sacked from her job in a private firm after she announced her proposed pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple, which opened its doors to females of menstruating age from Wednesday following a Supreme Court order last month.

"All GCC nations are home to a large cosmopolitan population from nearly all countries in the world and we respect their sentiments, culture and religious beliefs", Nandakumar said. They alleged the police did not offer protection and escort them to the shrine.

The anti-women protesters surrounded the auto in which News18's reporter Radhika Ramaswamy was travelling and abused her verbally, asking her to turn back.

The situation on the ground, however, seemed to belie the claims of the police.

Pooja Prasaanna of Republic TV said the protesters hurled stones at a police van where she and her crew members had taken shelter after their vehicle was targeted, and snatched away batons carried by police officers who tried to shield them.

Although the couple had said that they would go only up to Pamba and not climb Sabarimala, the activists stopped them from proceeding.

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"No one should be able to change the way this temple has functioned for centuries", he said.

But while thousands of bare-chested men entered the temple with offerings of tumeric and incense when it opened at 5 p.m. (1130 GMT) for the first time since the court decision, there were no signs of any women going in.

Another woman devotee, Liby, who got down at the Pathanamthitta bus stand and was to board a bus to Nilackal, faced angry devotees who booed her. Easwar, who was kept at the Pamba police station, said Ayyappa devotees only wanted their right under Article 25 of the constitution that provided for freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion to be protected. We had many such wrongful traditions.

The Supreme Court in a historic judgement last month had recently allowed the entry of women devotees into the temple.

This is the third religious site in India where women have gained the right to enter through judicial intervention.

The chief priest of the Sabarimala temple, 25-year-old Kandararu Maheshwararu Tantri, warned earlier this week that widespread "anger could easily escalate into violence if a few egotistical women try to enter".

For the LDF government, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan reiterated the resolve to punish anyone taking law in his/her hands and ruled out filing a review petition since the government is committed to gender equality. "Moreover, there are other Ayyappa temples women can visit", the Times of India quoted him as saying. "Supreme Court's order is Constitutional & govt is bound to implement it".

Security forces have been deployed and they have already stopped many Hindu groups from preventing women entering the temple.