Dozens arrested around flashpoint Indian temple

Indian police earlier mounted a massive police operation to prevent hard-liners from blocking women to enter a Hindu temple. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018

Dozens arrested around flashpoint Indian temple

  • The Sabarimala temple in the southern state of Kerala has become a major battleground between Hindu radicals and gender activists
  • Tens of thousands of pilgrims have thronged to the hilltop shrine since it reopened Friday amid unprecedented security

PAMBA, India: Indian police arrested 68 people taking part in protests around a controversial Hindu temple ahead of a Supreme Court ruling Monday on whether it should be given more time to let women enter.
The Sabarimala temple in the southern state of Kerala has become a major battleground between Hindu radicals and gender activists.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims have thronged to the hilltop shrine since it reopened Friday amid unprecedented security.
“We arrested 68 devotees after overnight protests around Sabarimala,” V.N Saji, assistant commissioner of Kerala police, told AFP.
The region has been increasingly tense with Hindu organizations and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) opposing the Supreme Court order to let women in the temple. There have been several protests and strikes.
Many pilgrims going to Sabarimala have also complained about restrictions on their movement during the new clampdown.
The Kerala government sent thousands of police to the region fearing a repeat of pitch battles between devotees and security forces in October, when the temple first reopened after the Supreme Court ordered the lifting of a longstanding ban on women of “menstruating age” between the ages of 10 and 50.
The ban reflected an old but still prevalent view in some areas that connects menstruation with impurity in Hinduism.
Police said many of those arrested late Sunday had been protesting against a ban on spending the night on the hilltop around the temple.
Media showed images of shirtless devotees — following the pilgrimage tradition — chanting mantras as they faced off with police.
About 700 women have registered to pray at the temple over coming weeks however none has yet made it to the hilltop.
Protesters stopped one leading woman activist from leaving the state’s main airport to get to Sabarimala.
The board which manages Sabarimala temple will on Monday ask the Supreme Court for more time to admit women, citing a lack of infrastructure.
In January, the country’s highest court will also hear challenges to its decision to lift the ban on women.


Sharif awaits UK flight go-ahead for urgent medical treatment

Updated 12 November 2019

Sharif awaits UK flight go-ahead for urgent medical treatment

  • Sharif's name had still to be removed from the country’s Exit Control List

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ailing former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, was on Monday awaiting the go-ahead to travel to the UK for urgent medical treatment.

However, the 69-year-old’s name had still to be removed from the country’s Exit Control List (ECL) after his release on bail last month from a seven-year sentence for corruption, due to his ongoing health problems.

According to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders, Sharif had been allowed by the government to get medical treatment outside Pakistan, but the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), was still considering his no-fly status, which if cleared would then require endorsement from the Ministry of Interior.

Sharif, who has dominated Pakistani politics for three decades and was premier three times, has denied the corruption charges, claiming they were politically motivated.

“All the arrangements for his treatment abroad have been finalized, and we are now just waiting for the government to remove his name from the ECL,” the PML-N party chairman, Raja Zafarul Haq, told Arab News on Sunday.

Haq said Sharif’s younger brother and PML-N president, Shehbaz Sharif, and his personal doctor, Adnan Khan, would travel with him to London.

FASTFACT

Nawaz Sharif, who was Pakistan’s prime minister three times, has denied the corruption charges, claiming they were politically motivated.

Sharif had been scheduled to leave Pakistan for Britain at 9:05 a.m. on Monday with a private airline but was delayed because of the ECL decision hold-up.

On Friday, the Pakistani government granted Sharif permission to go abroad after Shehbaz requested the Ministry of Interior to remove his brother’s name from the ECL.

“The Ministry of Interior has taken all necessary actions keeping in view the urgency of the matter as pleaded by Shehbaz Sharif in his request,” a ministry statement had said.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi added on Friday that doctors had recommended Sharif be sent abroad for further examination. “If that is what the medical treatment requires, the government has been positive,” he told Reuters. “The prime minister (Imran Khan) has said everything possible should be done to show his life is protected.”

Asked if Sharif might be trying to leave Pakistan to seek a second period in exile, Qureshi said: “If their hands are clean, why should they be running away? I hope he recovers. When he recovers, why should he be sticking around in London? There’s no logic, there’s no reason for that.”