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  • FILE PHOTO: Devotees of Hinduism wait in queues inside the premises of the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district in the southern state of Kerala, India, October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V/File photo.

    FILE PHOTO: Devotees of Hinduism wait in queues inside the premises of the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district in the southern state of Kerala, India, October 18, 2018. REUTERS/Sivaram V/File photo.

Published 19 November 2018

Tensions continue in Sabarimala Shrine as protesters clash with the government, over the issue of preventing women devotees of menstruating age to exercise freedom of religious practice.

On Sunday, dozens of protestors attending the Sabarimala Temple, located at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Province of Kerala, were arrested for demanding a ban lift on overnight stays, which was implemented by the government as a response to right-wing protests against women devotees.  

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“The temple opened for the first time on Friday, as a fierce standoff continues between the State government and protestors over the entry of menstruating women, as has been allowed by the the top Court,” reported NDTV news agency.

On September 28, India’s Supreme Court ruled women who are of menstruating age should be allowed to enter the shire, on a groundbreaking court ruling to protect women’s right to worship.

Police had deployed a contingent of nearly 15,000 policemen around Sabarimala. Allegedly, the police presence is due to prevent prior incidents which had taken place at the religious establishment, when “protesters” posing as “devotees,” had occupied the temple “raising slogans,” “heckled,” and prevented women believed to be under 50 years of age from entering the shrine.

In context, on October 17, women who tried to enter the temple after the first time in centuries were blocked by right-wing protesters, even in the presence of a big police contingent. Moreover, the assailants, acting in a belligerent way, threw stones, smashed car windows, and physically injured women devotees.

Devotees met with a heavy police presence who told them to disperse, before arresting them after their refusal.

“It was shocking that officers were there doing nothing. Protesters had free rein, attacking our vehicle,” stated Radhika Ramaswamy, from CNN.

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