Several localities in the state of Kerala, in the south of India, are on strike this Thursday to protest the entry of two women considered "impure", because they are of menstruating age, in the Hindu temple of Sabarimala. Yesterday, Wednesday when two citizens managed to access the sanctuary for the first time in centuries, There were violent demonstrations in which at least one person died.
Some 400 protesters, including some women, have been thrown into the streets of Kochi, the commercial capital of Kerala, on Thursday morning, supported by leaders of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), father ideological of the BJP. Many stores and other small businesses have closed after conservative Hindu groups called for a strike across the state. Most bus services have not operated and taxis have refused to accept passengers, as some drivers feared being attacked for it.
In the early hours of Wednesday, two Indians around 40 years old became the first women to enter the temple, after last September the Supreme Court lifted the entry ban that weighed on the females of 10 to 50 years, of menstruating age. Hinduism considers menstruation as a sign of impurity and away from religious rituals. Most temples allow women to enter, unless they have the period at that time. Sabarimala prevented it in any circumstance. The highest judicial body in the country lifted this veto a few months ago, and the decision sparked protests.
Yesterday, after the two women managed to enter the temple, there were protests in several areas of Kerala. The demonstrations in at least three districts of the state caused the death of a militant of the Hindu nationalist party BJP in the town of Pandalam, reported a Kerala police source who has asked to remain anonymous. So far, those involved in the protests have destroyed seven police vehicles and 79 buses and have attacked 39 members of the security forces and the media, mostly women, has detailed in a press conference the head of government from Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan.
The high office has affirmed that there is "violence throughout the state" and has specified that his Government has the responsibility to implement the decision of the Supreme Court. The ruling of the highest judicial body came last September, following a petition promoted in 2006 by the Indian Young Lawyers Association to challenge the centuries-old tradition against menstruating women, considered impure. The decision of the highest judicial body triggered the protests of followers of the celibate god Ayyappa, as well as the regional section of the BJP party and the historic Congress Party, which joined the devotees during the demonstrations to prevent women from accessing the sanctuary.
In recent months, dozens of women have tried unsuccessfully to make the pilgrimage to Sabarimala, and their attempts have been thwarted by hundreds of devotees and demonstrators of far-right Hindu groups. In the early hours of Wednesday, two women succeeded, escorted by several police officers. Images disseminated by local media show two women dressed in black and heads covered with handkerchiefs accessing the temple among a crowd of men, after having traveled the five-kilometer climb from the town of Pamba.