Women Form 620km Line Across Kerala Over Temple Access

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More tha 5 million women reportedly formed a 620km human chain for equality in Kerala. — Twitter photo

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.

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.

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.

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