Two women enter flashpoint India temple

Some 5 Million Indian Women Form Massive Human Chain for Gender Equality (PHOTO)

Some 5 Million Indian Women Form Massive Human Chain for Gender Equality (PHOTO)

Social activist Trupti Desai Wednesday hailed the entry of two women in their mid forties into the Lord Aayyappa hill shrine in Kerala's Sabarimala, saying it is a "victory of equality".

Repeated efforts by women to enter the temple were fought back by Hindu devotees.

The Women's Wall demonstration comes less than a week after BJP-backed right-wing groups organized their own human chain to protest the Supreme Court verdict.

On Wednesday, Bindu Ammini, 40, and Kanaka Durga, 39, entered around dawn, BBC News reported. According to an Indian Express report, both the women entered the temple under police escort.

He said the temple administration's decision to shut down the temple after the women visited had "violated" the courts's ruling.

In October, devotees clashed with police in a town near the temple leading to the arrest of more than 2,000 people. Media personnel, reporting from outside the state secretariat, were allegedly attacked by BJP and Yuva Morcha activists.

The Supreme Court has agreed to re-examine its decision to lift the ban later this month in response to 49 petitions filed against it. Opponents of the ruling say the celibacy of the temple's presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is protected by India's Constitution, and that women of all ages can worship at other Hindu temples. "We have to reject these ideas", she added. "We left before the protesters spotted us".

The police sources in Thiruvananthapuram, quoting DGP Loknath Behara, said details were being collected on the issue.

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Hindu women of all ages blocked roads and highways across Kerala by forming the human chain, extending their arms to make a pledge for gender equality. Despite the ban being overturned in September, no women have been able to enter the temple until now because of massive protests. The group consisted of six men in addition to the two women, who had covered their faces. "Holy chants blare on speakers as the women hurry into the Sabarimala temple".

Violent protests broke out across the southern state with Indian police firing tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons.

The women, who are now under police protection, can be seen leaving the shrine in videos that have been circulating on WhatsApp.

The restriction on women at Sabarimala, situated on top of a 3,000-foot (915-metre) hill in a tiger reserve that takes hours to climb, reflects a belief - not exclusive to Hinduism - that menstruating women are impure.

It was not immediately clear how the women managed to avoid devotees guarding the temple.

The few who did try were forced to turn back.

State BJP chief P S Sreedharan Pillai said the Kerala government will face the "wrath" of Lord Ayyappa. Critics have accused the BJP of exacerbating religious tensions in order to rally their conservative Hindu base.

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