Temple opens amid violent protests; Section 144 to be imposed

Temple opens amid violent protests; Section 144 to be imposed

Temple management and the protesters argue that the celibate nature of the temple's presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is protected by India's constitution.

The police had evicted the protestors who were staging a demonstration in Nilakkal on the Sabarimala issue.

The passengers including women chanting Ayyappa mantra urged the woman, Liby, not to violate the centuries-old custom of the shrine where women in the menstruating age group are not allowed.

One devotee who was walking to the temple with her son and daughter was forced to turn back by hecklers, despite a heavy police presence. She had to be escorted back by police.

Congress is not attacking anybody and definitely attack on journalists is not tolerable.

"Things are under control, and we are closely monitoring the situation", Kerala police spokesperson Pramod Kumar told AFP on Tuesday. Protesters combed buses, stopped women from going near the temple, attacked journalists, vandalised media vehicles and threw stones at the police.

The police meanwhile arrested members of the Pandalam Royal and Sabarimala temple Tantri families, including women, taking part in a protest near here against the temple's opening to all women.

But contrary to expectations, no woman aged 10 to 50 was able to make it to the temple, which will remain open for five days.

In a similar manner, News 18 reporter Neethu Reghukumar was heckled by angry protesters on Tuesday night and the media organisation's auto was attacked after she questioned the Kerala government over its promise on the safety of women devotees.

Tension is still prevailing in and around Nilakkal, Pamba and Erumeli.

This was overturned by the Supreme Court last month, with judges observing that "the right to practice religion is available to both men and women". "We demand that the chief minister and the government of Kerala take immediate action against agitators who let violent assailants loose on journalists", the organisation said in a statement. "Antharashtriya Hindu Parishad" led by Pravin Togadia and the "Sabarimala Samrakshana Samithi", an outfit of devotees, have called a 24-hour-long hartal starting midnight.

Crew of various TV news channels were asked to leave the place. Unable to bear the anger Madhavi chose to return.

But Kerala's Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said no one would be allowed to block devotees from proceeding to Sabarimala.

Hinduism regards menstruating women as unclean and bars them from participating in religious rituals.

On Wednesday morning, Loknath Behra said there was a very strong police presence in and around Sabarimala.

"No woman belonging to the banned age group of 10-50 will be allowed to travel further from Nilackal and offer worship at the shrine", the Press Trust of India news agency quoted one woman as saying.

The temple would be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly prayer during the Malayalam month of Thulam.

Women are permitted to enter most Hindu temples but female devotees are still barred from entry by some, despite intensifying campaigns by rights activists against the bans.

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