560 woman register to enter flashpoint Indian temple

Women devotees were not allowed to enter Sabarimala hilltop temple before the controversial Supreme Court ruling. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2018

560 woman register to enter flashpoint Indian temple

  • India’s Supreme Court in September ruled that all females should be allowed into the Sabarimala hilltop temple in the southern state of Kerala
  • The temple opens again on November 17 for a Hindu festival period lasting 41 days

NEW DELHI: A new standoff between Hindu traditionalists and Indian police over a flashpoint shrine is looming next week, with 560 women reportedly registering to visit the side when it reopens on November 17.
India’s Supreme Court in September ruled that all females should be allowed into the Sabarimala hilltop temple in the southern state of Kerala, and not just those under 10 or over 50 as before.
But when the temple reopened in mid-October, a handful of women who wanted to go were prevented by hard-liners, who also threw stones at police and assaulted journalists.
Police later detained around 2,000 people. The protesters’ anger reflected an old but still prevalent view in some areas of India that connects menstruation with impurity.
The temple opens again on November 17 for a Hindu festival period lasting 41 days, and some 300,000 people have registrated to visit — including some 560 woman, media reports said.
Police said that several thousand extra officers would be deployed and that tighter restrictions will be in place in an attempt to avoid clashes.
“Now, private vehicles will only be able to get to Nilackal, the first base camp, after getting prior passes (permission) from the local police,” Pramod Kumar, Kerala police spokesman told AFP.
The people will have to board government buses from there to Pamba, the next base camp around 20 kilometers (12 miles) away, before they start their on-foot climb to the top of the hill.
The Hindu daily said that Kerala police are considering using a military helicopter to take women to the hilltop site. In October women could not even begin ascending because of the protests.
Before the re-opening, on Tuesday the Supreme Court is due to hear review challenges against its earlier verdict. More than a dozen complaints have been filed.


Afghanistan to free 900 more Taliban prisoners

Updated 15 min 22 sec ago

Afghanistan to free 900 more Taliban prisoners

  • The government earlier responded to the Taliban’s cease-fire offer by announcing plans to release up to 2,000 insurgent prisoners
  • The cease-fire, only the second of its kind in the 19-year-old conflict, has raised hopes of an extended truce

KABUL: Afghan authorities plan to release 900 more Taliban prisoners Tuesday, as a rare cease-fire by the insurgents entered its third and last day.
The pause in fighting, which came into effect Sunday to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr, was for the most part holding out across the country, officials said.
The government earlier responded to the Taliban’s cease-fire offer by announcing plans to release up to 2,000 insurgent prisoners.
On Monday they freed 100 people and will release another 900 on Tuesday, the government said, the biggest group of Taliban prisoners freed so far.
“There is a decision to release 900 today,” National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal told AFP.
But the exact number could vary subject to legal procedures, he added.
The cease-fire, only the second of its kind in the 19-year-old conflict, has raised hopes of an extended truce that could pave the way for long-awaited peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.
President Ashraf Ghani has said his administration is ready to begin the negotiations, seen as key to ending the war in the impoverished country.
On Tuesday officials said the cease-fire, the country’s first initiated by the Taliban, had largely been observed.
The only other comparable pause in violence came over Eid in 2018, an olive branch offered by Ghani.
Violence in Afghanistan escalated after the Taliban signed a deal with Washington in February to withdraw all US forces by next year.
The agreement also stipulated the Afghan government would first release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the militants would free about 1,000 national security personnel.
Prior to this week’s releases, Kabul had already freed about 1,000 Taliban inmates, while the insurgents had let go about 300 Afghan security forces captives.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has welcomed the cease-fire, and said the freed Taliban fighters should not return to the battlefield.