Tens of thousands protest in India over flashpoint temple

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Women raise their hands to take a pledge to fight gender discrimination as they form part of a hundreds kilometer long "women's wall" in Thiruvananthapuram, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. (AP)
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Indian women stand in a line to take part in a "women's wall" protest in Kochi in southern Kerala state on January 1, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 02 January 2019

Tens of thousands protest in India over flashpoint temple

  • Many Hindu groups and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) oppose the ruling
  • The Supreme Court is to hear challenges to its landmark ruling from January 22, 2019

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India: Tens of thousands of women formed a human chain across a southern Indian state on Tuesday, in support of a court order overturning a partial ban on women entering one of Hinduism’s holiest temples, witnesses said.
The ‘Women’s Wall’ rally was backed by the communist government in Kerala state where the court order on Sabarimala temple has triggered weeks of protests by opponents and supporters of the ban.
Media reports and supporters of the initiative claimed hundreds of thousands of women formed a human chain across the 620-kilometer (380-mile) length of the state.
Government employees took part in the demonstration, while schools were given a half day and university exams delayed so that students could join the protest, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
A government statement issued before the event predicted five million women would participate in the protest.
Kerala has become the venue of an angry showdown between Hindu traditionalists and supporters of September’s Supreme Court ruling which ended a longstanding ban on women aged between 10 and 50 years.
Several women have since tried to reach the hilltop shrine but been forced back by opposing activists. Police have clashed with devotees supporting the ban and have arrested more than 2,000 people.
Hundreds of thousands of Hindus — men, young girls and elderly women — trek to the temple for an annual festival that usually falls around the end of the year.
The Supreme Court is to hear challenges to its landmark ruling from January 22.
Many Hindu groups and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) oppose the ruling. They argue that the court has ignored their beliefs that the deity Ayyappa was celibate.


India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

Updated 26 January 2020

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

  • Schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indians converged on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital amid tight security to celebrate the Republic Day on Sunday, which marks the 1950 anniversary of the country’s democratic constitution.
During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.
Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colorful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.
The 90-minute event, broadcast live, was watched by millions of Indians on their television sets across the country.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.
He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honor by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.
At the parade, Bolsonaro watched keenly as mechanized columns of Indian tanks, rocket launchers, locally made nuclear-capable missile systems and other hardware rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
Apart from attending the Republic Day celebrations, Bolsonaro’s visit was also aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties across a range of fields between the two countries.
On Saturday, Modi and Bolsonaro reached an agreement to promote investment in each other’s country.
Before the parade, Modi paid homage to fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi as the national capital was put under tight security cover.
Smaller parades were also held in the state capitals.
Police said five grenades were lobbed in the eastern Assam state by separatist militants who have routinely boycotted the Republic Day celebrations. No one was injured, police said.
Sunday’s blasts also come at a time when Assam has been witnessing continuous protests against the new citizenship law that have spread to many Indian states.
The law approved in December provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.