#SabarimalaShowdown: Women, journalists attacked near temple

Devotees and activist react after being stopped by police personnel during a protest against the Supreme Court verdict revoking a ban on women’s entry to Sabarimala temple, in Nilakkal in Kerala state on October 17, 2018.

Dubai: With India’s Sabarimala temple set to open today for female worshippers for the first time, a face-off between protesters and visitors is taking place in Kerala.

After India’s Supreme Court announced its decision removing the ban on women from entering the temple, tensions had been building up between protestors – mainly women – and those in support of the Supreme Court decision.

Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan responded to the protests and political pressure on the issue by saying that all devotees’ rights would be protected.

Online, social media users reported on the scuffles near the temple as well as the attempts to commit suicide using the hashtag #SabarimalaShowdown.

Tweep @rahulkanwal wrote: “To those devotees who say they are ‘ready to wait’, I say, please wait. Those who wish to exercise their ‘right to pray’ should be allowed to pray. To netas [politicians], back off. Double standards of politicians are glaring. Supreme Court has spoken. Honour court’s verdict. #SabarimalaShowdown”

@KS1729 added: “Extraordinary scenes at Sabarimala: devout Hindu women enter buses check for and remove young women headed to the temple area, some scuffle follows, the police (also devout) stands there watching unsure what to do next …”

@Sonal_MK, a reporter, shared pictures of women who had been stopped from going towards the temple, writing: “Two women who attempt entering Sabrimala, intimidated and forced to return. Madhavi holds her visibly shaken and sobbing daughter close to her and returns back fearing safety. No cop seen en route. This is a clear violation of the SC order. #SabarimalaShowdown”

Many were also upset with the political mileage many parties were trying to gain from the controversy.

@vinodjose tweeted: “Disappointing to see how the RSS-BJP [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-Bharatiya Janata Party] motivated vigilantes have taken over the roads leading to Sabarimala. A woman from Tamil Nadu was dragged out from a bus, and assaulted a few minutes ago. Blatant violation of the Supreme Court order opening the temple for women.”

Many journalists were also accosted by protesting mobs, with tweeps asking if it would have been safer to send drones instead of reporters to the scene, when violence was expected.

Many also added that the law of the land should still be considered above people’s beliefs.

@waglenikhil wrote: “What is happening at Sabarimala is clearly contempt of court. So called beliefs cannot override the constitution. The government must take stringent action against those who are instigating people. #SabarimalaFaceoff”

@alexandermats added: “I’m not seeking to divide this picture into black and white. There are also clearly a lot of greys. But sometimes, you just have to look into your conscience and ask yourself if something is right. What are you really fighting for?”

@charmyh commented on how the decision on Sabarimala had divided the state. She tweeted: “There are two sides to Kerala. One, hooligans stopping vehicles en route to Sabarimala to evict and assault young women in them. Two, people standing in pouring rain to listen to a CM who says discriminatory customs have no place in society. The former hasn’t won in Kerala. Not yet.”



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