Indian police charge protesters at flashpoint temple

Hindu hardliners have blocked the road to female pilgrims of menstrual age, after India's Supreme Court ruled they were allowed to enter a temple that has barred them for centuries.
Hindu devotees taking part in a protest against the lifting of a ban by Supreme Court which would now allow women of menstruating age to enter the Sabarimala temple, at Nilakkal Base camp, on Oct 16, 2018.
Hindu devotees taking part in a protest against the lifting of a ban by Supreme Court which would now allow women of menstruating age to enter the Sabarimala temple, at Nilakkal Base camp, on Oct 16, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

NILACKAL (AFP) – Indian police with batons on Wednesday (Oct 17) charged a group of more than one hundred protestors trying to prevent women accessing one of the country’s holiest Hindu sites, an AFP reporter at the scene said. 

Demonstrators threw stones at police on the way to the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in the southern state of Kerala, which has been ordered by India’s top court to admit women of all ages from later Wednesday. 

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. 

The devotees, most of whom were men, earlier surrounded and intimidated female journalists, including one from AFP. Two other female journalists were reportedly injured. 

Last month India’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on all females of menstruating age – judged between 10 and 50 – entering and praying at the hilltop temple. 

 
 

This enraged traditionalists, including supporters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).  

Kerala’s state government said it would enforce the court ruling, deploying 500 extra police to ensure free access to the remote complex reached by an uphill trek that takes several hours.