India police arrest more than 2,000 over temple protests

Police is seen deployed at the Nilakkal Base Camp to prevent clashes between women of menstrual age entering the Sabarimala temple for the first time in centuries and conservative Hindu groups out to stop them, in Pathanamthitta, in the southern state of Kerala, India, in this October 17, 2018 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 27 October 2018
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India police arrest more than 2,000 over temple protests

  • “We have arrested 2,061 people under various sections of the Indian penal code, including inciting communal violence, the arms act and destruction of public property,” a police official told AFP on condition of anonymity

NEW DELHI: Indian police have rounded up more than 2,000 people for stopping women from entering a flashpoint Hindu shrine in defiance of a Supreme Court order, officials said Friday.
Hindu hard-liners prevented women aged 10 to 50 from reaching the Sabarimala temple complex in Kerala state over the last week — the first time the temple has opened since the court ended a longstanding ban on women of menstruating age from worshipping there.
Protesters, including women and children, massed at the bottom of a hill leading to the shrine, threatening and manhandling any women who attempted to reach the temple.
Some protesters smashed car windows and clashed with olice, who started a crackdown on the blockade Wednesday.
“We have arrested 2,061 people under various sections of the Indian penal code, including inciting communal violence, the arms act and destruction of public property,” a police official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The official added that 452 cases had been registered against the suspects so far.
More arrests appeared likely as details of hundreds more suspects were to be published, police said.
The temple has become the center of a gender equality battle, pitting traditionalists against progressive voices pushing for a more liberal Hinduism.
The shrine is only open on a handful of days every year, and after last month’s Supreme Court order a number of Hindu women had flocked there.
Armed police tried to escort some devotees — but none made it to the top of the hill where the temple is located during the five-day worship period before it closed late Monday.
The temple will open for a one-day ritual next week and starts a two-month festival in the second week of November.
The Supreme Court is also to hear new petitions challenging its ruling in favor of women in November.
Sabarimala devotees believe allowing women of menstruating age to worship goes against the wishes of Lord Ayappa, a celibate deity.
Kerala’s influential Nair community have slammed police for arresting “devotees,” calling the action unethical and undemocratic.
Most Hindu temples allow women to enter as long as they are not menstruating.
Two years ago, activists campaigned to end a ban on women entering the Shani Shingnapur temple in Maharashtra state.
Women were also permitted to enter Mumbai’s Hajji Ali Dargah mausoleum, a Muslim place of worship, after the Supreme Court ended a ban in 2016.


More than 100 children die in India in encephalitis outbreak

Updated 31 min 4 sec ago
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More than 100 children die in India in encephalitis outbreak

  • Authorities say 106 children have died and 437 others between the ages of 4 and 10 are being treated
  • Thousands of Indians suffer from encephalitis, malaria, typhoid and other mosquito-borne diseases each year during summer

PATNA, India: An encephalitis outbreak has killed more than 100 children in India’s eastern state of Bihar.
Authorities say 106 children have died and 437 others between the ages of 4 and 10 are being treated in hospitals in Muzaffarpur district, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Patna, the state capital.
Villagers crowded outside Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital in Muzaffarpur to protest that Bihar’s chief minister had only visited after the death toll passed 100. Left-wing political organizations also rallied in New Delhi.
Thousands of Indians suffer from encephalitis, malaria, typhoid and other mosquito-borne diseases each year during the summer monsoon season.
Medical experts say India’s central and state governments remain unprepared for what is now an annual cycle of disease and death.