One dead, 15 injured after women enter flashpoint India temple

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India (AFP) – One person was killed and at least 15 injured in violence across southern India’s Kerala state which broke out after two women defied traditionalists to enter one of Hinduism’s holiest temples, police said yesterday.

Clashes were reported across the state after the two women activists, escorted by police, entered the Sabarimala temple in a surprise pre-dawn operation on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court in September 2018 overturned a decades-old ban on women of menstruating age – deemed as those between 10 and 50 – setting foot inside the gold-plated Sabarimala temple.

Several women activists have made unsuccessful attempts to reach the temple since the order due to stiff resistance from thousands of devotees including men and women, who see it as an attack on tradition.

“The person who died was part of a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demonstration yesterday and got injured when some stones were hurled (at the demonstrators),” Kerala police spokesman Pramod Kumar told AFP.

“His injuries were serious and he died late on Wednesday night. At least 15 others were injured in incidents across the state,” Kumar added.

Local media reports said the demonstrators from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP were hit by stones from a local office of the state’s ruling party.

Kerala remained tense yesterday, and the police said additional forces had been deployed across the state to prevent further violence breaking out.

The police on Wednesday used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon to control clashes between the rival groups, largely conservatives and cadres of the state’s ruling left-wing parties.

Police intervene as members of Sabarimala Karma Samithi try to disrupt a celebratory meeting after two women entered the Sabarimala Ayyapa temple in Kerala. – AFP