Protests erupt in India after women enter Hindu temple
Hindu traditionalists believe women of menstruating age should not be allowed in the Sabarimala temple
Violent clashes have broken out in the Indian state of Kerala after two women defied traditionalists to enter an ancient Hindu temple.
The Sabarimala temple, one of the holiest sites in Hinduism, had been closed to women of menstruating age until a landmark court ruling overturned the ban last year.
In recent weeks Hindu traditionalists – backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – have prevented attempts by women to access the hilltop site, AFP reports.
The restriction reflects a belief that menstruating women are impure, it says.
But two women made history by entering the temple yesterday, escorted by police officers in the early hours of the morning.
Video images circulating on social media show the women, Bindu Ammini, 40, and Kanaka Durga, 39, entering the temple at dawn.
“Watching the visuals of them making their way into the shrine makes me cry in joy – how long it has taken for us to claim space, to write our way into history,” feminist author Meena Kandasamy tweeted.
But the move has angered BJP politicians who have called on conservative Hindu groups to take to the streets for two days of protests, Reuters reports.
Violent clashes were reported yesterday outside the state parliament in Kerala's state capital Thiruvananthapuram, with police using tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.
The milestone came a day after millions of women formed a series of human chains that stretched up to 385 miles in protest against the refusal to allow women onto the holy site.