Two women defy centuries-old ban by entering Indian temple
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, INDIA: Two women defied a centuries-old ban on entering a Hindu temple in the Indian state of Kerala yesterday, sparking protests and calls for a strike by conservative Hindu groups outraged by their visit.
Police fired teargas and used water cannons to disperse a large crowd of protesters in the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram, television news channels showed.
There were protests in several other cities in the state, media reported.
India's Supreme Court in September ordered the lifting of the ban on women or girls of menstruating age from entering the Sabarimala temple, which draws millions of worshippers a year. But the temple refused to abide by the ruling.
Until now Hindu traditionalists - backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - have prevented, sometimes violently, attempts by women to access the hilltop site in the state of Kerala.
But in a surprise pre-dawn operation yesterday, police let two women enter the temple and leave again undetected, officials said. Video showed the women in black tunics with their heads bowed as they rushed in. - REUTERS, AFP