Right-wing protesters attacked women, including journalists, outside a temple Wednesday. The groups were blocking women, considered to be of menstrual age, from entering the temple despite an overwhelming police presence.
Groups of mostly women threw stones, smashed windows of cars, kicked, and attacked women devotees attempting entry and the female journalists accompanying them, although hundreds of police officers were on site.
It is the first time the Sabarimala temple has opened its doors in centuries to women who could be of menstruating age. The decision comes after a Supreme Court ruling in favor of women's right to worship.
Protesters broke windows of the car Radhika Ramaswamy, a journalist with CNN NEWS 18, footage from the news station showed. The attack was done in view of the police.
"It was shocking that officers were there doing nothing. Protesters had free rein, attacking our vehicle," Ramaswamy said.
Saritha Balan, a journalist from The News Minute, told Indian TV that she was kicked by protesters while accompanying devotees. Camera crews from multiple channels also had their vehicles vandalized.
Police removed hundreds of protesters from a temple site in Nilakkal overnight, Reuters reported. At least six people were arrested. Three were taken into custody in connection with an assault on a woman and her spouse from Tamil Nadu.
"Nobody will be allowed to prevent anybody. We will do everything possible to implement the law of the land," said Inspector General of Police Manoj Abraham. "None will be allowed to take the law into their hands."
Footage from CNN NEWS 18 showed police chasing protesters through a forest near the main entry point to the temple. Protesters had been throwing stones, the news organization reported.
Protesters said they were protecting their traditions. "I am here to protest the Supreme Court decision. We want to save our traditions. Ayyappa needs to be respected," a member of a group chanting religious slogans told AFP.
The Sabarimala temple in the southern state of Kerala has been a point of contention since India's Supreme Court overturned a ban that prevented women between 10 and 50 years old from worshipping at the temple in late September. The court stated that the law impeded women’s right to worship. The Kerala government has pledged to uphold the court ruling.
Women are allowed to enter most Hindu temples but are still barred from entry to others. It is an old but widely held belief in India that menstruating women are impure.