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
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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 seizes one ton of ketamine on boat, arrests six Myanmar crew

Updated 24 min 50 sec ago

India seizes one ton of ketamine on boat, arrests six Myanmar crew

  • India’s coast guard seized $42 million worth of ketamine

NEW DELHI: India’s coast guard has arrested six Myanmar men and seized $42 million worth of ketamine after spotting a suspicious vessel in the Indian Ocean near the Nicobar Islands.
The 1,160-kilogram drug haul came after coast guard aircraft spotted the boat, which had its lights off, on Wednesday in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the defense ministry said in a statement.
The boat’s crew did not respond to radio calls and the coast guard eventually boarded it, with officials finding “57 gunny bundles of suspicious substance” on Friday.
“Preliminary analysis ... revealed that the suspicious substance was ketamine and there were 1,160 packets of 1kg each onboard the vessel,” the ministry added.
The six Myanmar men and cargo were taken to Port Blair, the capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where they were questioned by investigators.
They claimed they left Myanmar on September 14 and were due to rendezvous with another boat “operating near the Thailand-Malaysia maritime border line” on Saturday, the statement said.
The Nicobar Islands are located near Southeast Asia, off Myanmar’s coast.
Parts of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand are in the lawless “Golden Triangle” zone, the world’s second-largest drug-producing region after Latin America.
Large amounts drugs such as heroin and methamphetamine are churned out in remote jungle labs each year and smuggled across Asia and beyond.