Clashes rock Kerala a day after women enter Sabarimala

Hindu traditionalists and activists clashed with the police and political rivals as they took to the streets of Kerala during a dawn-to-dusk shutdown to protest against the entry of two women in their 40s into the ancient Sabarimala temple, causing mayhem in several parts of the state, forcing normal life to a halt and prompting governor P Sathasivam to seek a report on the situation from chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

At least 250 people, including 38 policemen, were injured in violence, the authorities said, during the strike organised by the Sabarimala Karma Samiti, an umbrella group of Hindu outfits, which was supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Congress-led United Democratic Front observed a “black day.”

On Wednesday, Bindu Ammini, 42, and Kanakadurga, 44, escorted by a group of policemen, became the first women to worship at Sabarimala, breaking a tradition barring the entry of female devotees between 10 and 50 years of age into the shrine, more than three months after the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to pray at the temple. Kerala has been on edge since the Supreme Court verdict, which angered Hindu traditionalists, including women, who foiled previous attempts by women in the age group to enter the shrine. The violation of the taboo by the two women, which was backed by Kerala’s ruling Left Democratic Front, had triggered unrest in the state on Wednesday. Entry of women of menstruating age into the gold-plated Lord Ayyappa temple, nestled in a tiger reserve, had been banned on grounds that the presiding deity is a celibate. On Thursday, the police in Kozhikode and Kasargode districts baton charged protesters as several offices and houses of Left parties and the BJP were attacked throughout the state. In Kozhikode, the police used teargas to disperse protesters who tried to enforce the shutdown. Stone-throwing protestors on Thursday damaged 79 Kerala State Road Transport Corporation buses. A BJP worker, who was injured in stone-pelting, died of his injuries in the early hours in Pandalam, and two Communist Party of India (Marxist) were arrested in connection with the death. In Thrissur, four workers of the BJP were stabbed on Thursday while enforcing the shutdown. As many as 14 people were stabbed across the state.

Crude bombs were hurled at many places, including in north Kerala’s Thalasserry and Nedumangad in the south.

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