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India Arrests 750 As Third Woman Enters Flash point Temple

DEHLI, India – Indian Police brace for more trouble after Hindu hardliners shut shops and businesses and clashed with police in southern Kerala state for two days in protest entry of first two women in one of Hinduism’s holiest temples, AFP reported Friday.
A third woman has worshiped at an Indian flash point temple in Kerala, police said on Friday, two days after the entry of two others for the first time since a landmark court ruling in September sparked violent protests.
“She entered the temple yesterday night. She is 47 years old and came as a devotee. We were aware and watched the situation,” Balram Kumar Upadhyay, a police official in the southern state, told AFP news agency.
In September, India’s Supreme Court overturned a ban on women of menstruating age –– deemed as those aged 10 to 50 –– setting foot in the gold-plated hilltop temple, but Hindu hardliners until this week prevented any from doing so.
Two days of violent protests by hardliners have seen more than 750 people arrested, police said, as they braced for more trouble after third women entered the temple.
The Sabarimala temple in Kerala state has been at the center of a prolonged showdown between Hindu traditionalists backed by right-wing ruling party of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and women activists over access to the shrine.
As well as those arrested during the clashes over 600 have been taken into preventive detention, police spokesman VP Pramod Kumar told AFP news agency.
“The police are extra alert, there are tensions but it’s peaceful,” he said, adding that police had imposed bans on the movement of people in the towns of Palakkad and Kasargod, two hotspots of violence on Thursday.
Anger erupted on Wednesday after two women in their 40s sneaked into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala state via a side entrance before dawn to worship.
Thousands of Hindu devotees and conservative Hindu groups, many of them female, had previously succeeded in preventing women from accessing the site in the weeks following the landmark ruling.
The court’s verdict sparked anger among Hindu traditionalists, including within Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP.
Clashes on Wednesday and Thursday between Hindu hardliners, activists of Kerala’s ruling leftist alliance and riot police firing tear gas and water cannon, left one man dead and at least fifteen people injured, including four BJP supporters who were stabbed.
Much of the sporadic violence took place as Hindu hardliners sought to force shopkeepers to comply with a dawn-til-dusk shutdown called by the Sabarimala temple hierarchy, media reports said.
The Supreme Court of India is to start hearing a legal challenge on its temple ruling – the latest in a series of verdicts to upset traditionalists and reflect a more liberal outlook in Indian society – from January 22.
Women are prohibited from a handful of Hindu temples in India. The entry of women of menstruating age to Sabarimala was taboo for generations and formalized by the Kerala High Court in 1991.
(Sahar News Monitoring Desk)

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