‘Golden opportunity’

Women legally allowed to enter historic shrine for 1st time — but angry protesters block their way

Hindu devotees stop a car to check if any women of menstruating age are headed towards the Sabarimala temple, at Nilakkal Base camp in Pathanamthitta district in the southern state of Kerala, India, October 16, 2018. (REUTERS/Sivaram V)

Nearly two months after a groundbreaking decision from India’s Supreme Court gave women the right to worship at the country’s famous Sabarimala Temple, continuing protests from angered devotees have continued to prevent any woman from entering the grounds of the centuries-old shrine. According to traditional Hindu belief, the temple, which is devoted to a celibate god called Lord Ayyappa, would be ritually contaminated if visited by women of menstruating age.

At least a dozen attempts by women to visit the shrine have been thwarted by protesters who have physically blocked women from visiting the temple and threatened those who would dare to try with violent retaliation. On Friday, women’s rights activist Trupti Desai attempted to visit the shrine but was unable to leave the Kochi airport after taxi drivers refused to pick up her and other women headed to the temple out of fear that they themselves would be targeted by protesters. According to The Washington Post, more than 1,000 protesters crowded outside the exits to the airport to prevent Desai from even leaving the arrivals area — forcing her to ultimately catch a returning flight home instead.

Leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have also inserted themselves into the protests — several BJP leaders delivered speeches during Friday’s protest at the Kochi airport — with one leader referring openly to the controversy as a “golden opportunity.” And while the state government in Kerala, where Sabarimala Temple is located, has promised to uphold the court’s verdict, they have yet to force protesters to allow women through to worship at the temple due to concerns about possible violence.

Teacher Reshma Nishanth, 32, told The Post that right-wing Hindu groups visited her house and followed her to the railway station after she announced her intention to make the pilgrimage to Sabarimala on social media.

“It has become more and more difficult with [these] hooligan elements,” she said. “Those who create violence in the name of God are not devotees at all.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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