Protesters block women scribes, attack cars near Sabarimala

Protesters block women scribes, attack cars near Sabarimala

Protesters block women scribes, attack cars near Sabarimala

Protesters turned away at least two female devotees who tried to enter the shrine, maintaining a centuries-old tradition that women of menstruating age can not enter the temple because the presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is celibate. A reporter from The News Minute (TNM) and another from the Republic TV were brutally attacked by the protesters though they were in Nilakkal.

But later police struggled to control the situation, fighting running battles that left five devotees and 15 policemen injured, according to EP Jayarajan, a minister in the Kerala government.

But while thousands of bare-chested men entered the temple with offerings of tumeric and incense when it opened at 5 p.m. (1130 GMT) for the first time since the court decision, there were no signs of any women going in.

"Police were forced to intervene when some protesters started attacking media personnel", said district collector PB Nooh, stressing that the administration will make sure the pilgrimage was not affected.

Shortly after, India Today reporter Mausami Singh was pulled out of a KSRTC bus in which she was travelling and attacked.

"I'm a reporter!" Ramaswamy can be heard yelling in Malayalam as devotees break her car's windshield.

The Network of Women in Media condemned the attack on the women journalists and said that it is up to the government to ensure that mobs do not interfere with freedom of expression, the public's right to information and the media's right to report.

The series of attacks began close to noon, with a mob surrounding a auto in which the Republic TV channel crew was travelling.

Sneha Koshy, Kerala bureau chief for NDTV, said protesters heckled her while she covered the protest.

A large group, which had gathered to listen to Hindu Aikya Vedi Sasikala speaking, soon surrounded the police van and hurled stones at the bus. A woman protestor reportedly threw a water bottle at Saritha.

Security forces have been deployed and they have already stopped many Hindu groups from preventing women entering the temple.

"We don't mind not being allowed in".

Every year, millions of male devotees trek up a steep hill to visit the shrine, which is believed to be about 800 years old.

Both the Congress - the main opposition party in Kerala - and the BJP, which is desperately seeking to expand its footprint in the state, have lent support to the agitation against the Supreme Court verdict.

Actor-turned-BJP politician Kollam Thulashi went to the entent of saying women of "banned age" visiting the shrine should be "ripped apart".

Getty Editorial Female devotees also protested against the decision to allow women between ages 10 and 50 to enter Sabarimala.

The centuries-old ban reflected an old but still prevalent belief that menstruating women are impure, and the fact that Ayyappa was reputed to have been celibate. "So, interference of women in the shrine shall be seen as transgressive", said Neelesh Sagar, a local who came to protest at the base camp with his family.

Other Hindu temples in India have bans that prohibit women from entering when they are on their periods. "This matter is related to a longstanding custom and has nothing to do with equality in rights", said a woman protester from Sabarimala Achara Samrakshan Samiti.

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