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In photos: Kerala erupts over women entering the Sabarimala temple

By Maria Thomas
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A southern Indian state is in deep turmoil over women of menstruating age.

Earlier this week, two persons entered Kerala’s revered Sabarimala temple, the first time since a long-held traditional ban on the entry of such women was held unconstitutional by the Indian supreme court in September 2018.

This has sparked a major agitation across the coastal state, led by Hindu right-wing groups considered close to India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Yesterday (Jan. 03), one person was killed and 100 reportedly injured as the situation turned violent, with stabbings, street fights, and even the use of crude bombs reported in Kerala. Around 75 state-run buses were reportedly vandalised, and the police have arrested over 700 people.

Anger among a section of Kerala’s society has been simmering ever since the supreme court ruling that came at the end of a legal battle that lasted over a decade.

Located in the Western Ghats, the Sabarimala temple is devoted to the Hindu god Ayyappa, who is believed to be celibate, and is one of the country’s most-visited pilgrimage sites.

Following the supreme court’s landmark ruling, several women have attempted to enter the temple but failed amid rampant protests. The two women who finally managed the feat this week, too, had been unsuccessful earlier.

The state government led by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said repeatedly it is committed to enforcing the supreme court ruling. But right-wing groups are determined to prevent this. Even as far away as New Delhi, those against the ending of the ban burned and beat effigies of Vijayan during protests on Jan. 03.

Here are some photos of the violence and protests:

AP Photo/R.S. Iyer
Policemen stand guard during a march by BJP activists in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala’s capital.
AP Photo/R.S. Iyer
The strike was called by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of Hindu groups on Jan. 03.
Reuters/Sivaram V
Supporters of the BJP and the Hindu nationalist organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), protesting in Kochi, Kerala, on Jan. 03.
Reuters/Sivaram V
Protesters in Kochi on Jan. 02.
Reuters/Sivaram V
Protesters hold a portrait of lord Ayyappa on Jan. 02.
Reuters/Sivaram V
An officer removing members of Kerala Students Union, the student wing of India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, from outside a police station in Kochi on Jan. 03.
Reuters/Sivaram V
Police remove protesters in Kochi.
Prakash Elamakkara/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock
Indian policewomen detain protesting female activists in Kochi.
AP Photo/R S Iyer
Congress party activists burn an effigy of chief minister Vijayan in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
AP Photo/R S Iyer
Vandalised state-owned buses during the Jan. 03 strike in Thiruvananthapuram.
AP Photo/R S Iyer
Another vandalised bus in Thiruvananthapuram.
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
In New Delhi, protesters beat an effigy of Vijayan.
Reuters/Adnan Abidi
Protesters burning an effigy of Vijayan in New Delhi on Jan. 03.

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