THIRUVANANTHAPURAM (AFP) — Thousands of women formed a human chain across the state of Kerala in southern India on Tuesday, in support of a court order overturning a partial ban on women entering one of Hinduism’s holiest temples, witnesses said.
The ‘Women’s Wall’ rally was backed by the communist government in the state where a Superme Court order on Sabarimala temple has triggered weeks of protests.
Media reports and supporters of the initiative claimed over a million women formed a human chain across the 620-kilometre length of the state.
Government employees took part in the demonstration, while schools were given a half day and university exams delayed so that students could join the protest, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
Something Beautiful is happening in Kerala right now. You're witnessing history. Women standing in solidarity with each other fighting for our rights. Should happen in all states. 2019 is lit. #WomensWall #Respect
— Priyanka (@autumnrainwish) January 1, 2019
A government statement issued before the event predicted five million women would participate in the protest.
The Sabarimala Temple on a hill has become the venue for clashes between Hindu traditionalists and supporters of September’s court ruling which ended a longstanding ban on women aged between 10 and 50 years.
Every Temple has their own beliefs. There are temples where men are not allowed. We should read minutely what the respected lady judge said on the Sabarimala case : PM Modi in an interview to ANI pic.twitter.com/tqiTadx9kx
— BJP (@BJP4India) January 1, 2019
Several women have since tried to reach the hill-top shrine but been forced back by opposing activists. Police have clashed with devotees supporting the ban and have arrested more than 2,000 people.
Hundreds of thousands of Hindus – men, young girls and elderly women – trek to the temple for an annual festival that usually falls around the end of the year.
The Supreme Court is to hear challenges to its landmark ruling from January 22.
Many Hindu groups and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) oppose the ruling. They argue that the court has ignored their beliefs that the deity Ayyappa was celibate.
If 5 million women coming together against obscurantism don't make news worldwide, it makes stark the hypocrisy of liberals who dislike rationalism, party politics, and working women's movements. #WomenWall https://t.co/JAiziVZ8hf
— JV (@Vipra1234) January 1, 2019