Huge Catalan march in Brussels to ‘wake up Europe’

Pro-independence Catalans from all over Europe take part in a rally showing their support to ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and his government in Brussels on Thursday. (Reuters)
Updated 07 December 2017
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Huge Catalan march in Brussels to ‘wake up Europe’

BRUSSELS: A sea of around 45,000 pro-Catalonia protesters demonstrated in Brussels on Thursday to show support for the region’s deposed president Carles Puigdemont and urge the EU to support its drive for independence from Spain.
Demonstrators chanted “Wake up Europe!” and waved Catalonia’s red, yellow and blue Estelada separatist flag as they marched past the European Union headquarters in the Belgian capital.
“We cannot abandon our president, who is in exile here,” Antoni Llenas, 59, a protester wearing a flag over his shoulders, told AFP. “We are here to continue the struggle for our independence and to ask for the freedom of our political prisoners.”
Belgian police said on Twitter that there were an estimated 45,000 protesters, more than double the 20,000 that organizers said they originally expected. The rally began peacefully, according to AFP reporters on the scene.
Puigdemont and four former ministers fled to Brussels in November, saying they wanted to take their cause to the European level after Spain charged them with sedition and rebellion over Catalonia’s independence referendum in October.
On Monday, the Spanish government dropped a European arrest warrant for the five, but Puigdemont said he would stay put for now as they still face arrest in Spain if they return for regional polls in Catalonia that Madrid has called for Dec. 21.
Protesters arrived in a stream of coaches and camper vans with Spanish registration plates, and gathered in the Cinquantenaire Park in the city’s European quarter before the start of the march at 1030 GMT.
Children and families were among those who began the march in high spirits despite the cold and rain.
Their route is taking them past the headquarters of the European Commission and they will end up in a square between the European Council and European Parliament.
The EU has strongly backed the Spanish government over the Catalan issue, saying that it is an internal matter for Madrid.


Indian temple controversy turns political as protests grow

Updated 19 October 2018
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Indian temple controversy turns political as protests grow

  • Three dozen priests staged a sit-in against the verdict overturning the ban that kept women aged between 10 and 50 out of the temple.
  • Though Hindus form a majority of the Kerala's population of more than 35 million, it is home to millions of Muslims and Christians.

KOCHI/NEW DELHI: A senior leader of India’s ruling party warned on Friday that protesters in the southern state of Kerala would take the law into their hands if officials attempted to let women enter a hill temple at the center of a raging controversy.
A political tinge for the controversy could help Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party gain ground in Kerala, where it has never made much headway, and won just one of 98 seats it contested in the last elections to the state assembly in 2016.
Protests against women entering the Hindu temple grew on Friday, with hundreds of hard-liners blocking three women from entering the Sabarimala temple for a third day.
The demonstrators were defying a Supreme Court verdict that overturned a decades-old ruling by a lower court denying entry to women of menstrual age, whom some Hindu communities consider to be ritually unclean.
“If the government is trying to implement its agenda in Sabarimala, we will prevent it, even by taking the law into our hands,” said K. Surendran, the general secretary of Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in the state.
“Sabarimala is not a place for anybody to tamper with.”
Surendran accused the state’s Communist Party government, which has tried to implement the verdict, of provoking devotees after police gave protection to some women who sought to reach the remote site.
He did not elaborate on what the party plans to do, however.
Three dozen priests staged a sit-in against the verdict overturning the ban that kept women aged between 10 and 50 out of the temple, where a celibate deity, Lord Ayyappan, is worshipped.
Television broadcast images of scores of police attempting to calm emotional protesters, who consider the verdict a challenge to tradition and interference in religious affairs. The Supreme Court called the tradition patriarchal.
Though Hindus form a majority of the state’s population of more than 35 million, it is home to millions of Muslims and Christians.
The controversy has fired up Hindu religious sentiment, with some residents supporting the view that the temple devotees’ feelings ought to be respected.
Members of Modi’s BJP in the state have also strongly backed those seeking to block the entry of women.
Hindu hard-liners, including members of the BJP’s youth wing, have clashed with police and attacked women, including journalists, who have tried to get to the temple.
Two women who got close were forced to turn back in the face of protests and a threat by the head priest to shut the temple if they entered, senior Kerala police official S. Sreejith told reporters on Friday.
A third woman turned back at the request of police, citing the tension.