India court orders security for women who entered flashpoint temple

Bindu Ammini, right, and Kanakadurga, left, entered the hilltop Sabarimala temple on Jan. 2. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019

India court orders security for women who entered flashpoint temple

  • Devotees refused India’s supreme court ruling to lift the ban on women aged 10-50 from entering hilltop Sabarimala temple
  • Violent protests broke after two women managed to enter the temple

NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered southern Kerala state to provide “round-the-clock” security to two women who enraged conservatives by entering one of Hinduism’s holiest temples earlier this month.
The court in September overturned a ban on women aged between 10 and 50 from entering the hilltop Sabarimala temple, but the devotees refused to accept the ruling and prevented female worshippers from entering.
News that two women had managed to enter the shrine on January 2 triggered days of violent protest, with one person killed and dozens injured in clashes with police that saw buses torched and bombs hurled.
The women, Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, went in hiding and later approached the top court, claiming their lives were in danger.
“Having heard the lawyers we deem it appropriate to close this petition at this stage by directing Kerala to provide adequate security to both. The security would be provided round the clock,” the court said.
Kanakadurga, who goes by one name, was allegedly attacked by her mother-in-law on Tuesday after returning home and was admitted to hospital for her injuries.
She had been on the run for days with Ammini, with the pair changing safe houses more than 10 times to avoid being tracked down.
The temple — considered among the holiest in Hinduism and set on top of a hill in a tiger reserve — receives millions of pilgrims a year.
It is dedicated to the celibate deity Ayyappa, and followers believe letting in women of menstruating age goes against his wishes.
It is one of the few Hindu temples with restrictions on the entry of women.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear legal challenges to its September order overturning the ban on women entering Sabarimala next week.


Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

Updated 55 min 38 sec ago

Taliban talks resume amid hopes of deal

  • The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday
  • Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month

DOHA: The US and the Taliban met in Doha on Thursday, an American source close to the talks said, for potentially decisive dialogue to allow Washington to drawdown militarily in Afghanistan.
The source said the talks started around 1300 GMT — the ninth time the two foes have met face-to-face.
The disclosure came in a context of ongoing bloodshed in Afghanistan after NATO said two US military personnel were killed Wednesday, blasts rocked Jalalabad Monday, and the death toll from a weekend wedding bombing reached 80.
Washington’s top commander in Afghanistan General Scott Miller was at the talks venue, according to an AFP correspondent.
The US, which invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban in 2001, wants to withdraw thousands of troops but only in return for the insurgent group renouncing Al-Qaeda and curbing attacks.
Washington is hoping to strike an agreement with the Taliban by September 1 — ahead of Afghan polls due the same month, and US presidential polls due in 2020.
Taliban lead negotiator Abbas Stanikzai told AFP Thursday that overall talks had been “going well.”
The talks are expected to focus on establishing a timeline for the US withdrawal of its more than 13,000 troops in Afghanistan.
“We’ve been there for 18 years, it’s ridiculous,” US President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday.
“We are negotiating with the government and we are negotiating with the Taliban,” he said.
“We have good talks going and we will see what happens.”
But the thorny issues of power-sharing with the Taliban, the role of regional powers including Pakistan and India, and the fate of Afghanistan’s incumbent administration remain unresolved.
US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad sought to bolster optimism for a peace agreement last week when he said in a tweet that he hoped this is the final year that the country is at war.