Clashes after women enter flashpoint Indian temple

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Policemen take position outside the state secretariat anticipating protests following reports of two women of menstruating age entering the Sabarimala temple, one of the world's largest Hindu pilgrimage sites, in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. (AP)
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Men talk to two women who entered the Sabarimala Temple in Pathanamthitta, Kerala, India, January 2, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Indian Hindu devotees wait in line to visit the Sabarimala temple in Kerala following the entry of two women on January 2, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 03 January 2019

Clashes after women enter flashpoint Indian temple

  • As soon as news of Wednesday’s breach spread, the temple head priest ordered the shrine closed for a purification ritual. It reopened after around an hour

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India: Protests and violence erupted in southern India on Wednesday after two women defied traditionalists to enter one of Hinduism’s holiest temples for the first time since a landmark court ruling.
Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon as protests and clashes between rival groups erupted across the southern state of Kerala, local media reported, with several officers injured.
The Supreme Court in September overturned a decades-old ban on women of menstruating age — deemed as those between 10 and 50 — setting foot inside the gold-plated Sabarimala temple.
In recent weeks Hindu traditionalists — backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — have prevented attempts by women to access the hilltop site, with some hard-liners turning violent.
But in a surprise pre-dawn operation on Wednesday that was heralded by activists but that enraged conservative devotees, police enabled two women to penetrate the temple and then leave again undetected, officials confirmed.
Video images showed the 42-year-old women, Kanaka Durga and Bindu, who has only one name, wearing black tunics with their heads bowed as they rushed in.
“We did not enter the shrine by climbing the 18 holy steps but went through the staff gate,” one of the women later told reporters.

As soon as news of Wednesday’s breach spread, the temple head priest ordered the shrine closed for a purification ritual. It reopened after around an hour.
Later clashes were reported between scores of people chanting slogans in front of the state parliament in Kerala’s state capital Thiruvananthapuram. Some reportedly set fire to tires.
The standoff petered out around five hours later after police intervened. Five female protesters who tried to barge into the state parliament were arrested.
Journalists were also assaulted in Thiruvananthapuram and in the city of Kollam while clashes were reported elsewhere.
Police with batons charged at demonstrators who were trying to enforce a shutdown of shops and businesses in the area called for by the Sabarimala temple hierarchy.
Public bus services were suspended after protesters blocked their path and pelted vehicles with stones.
Modi’s government did not immediately react to news of the women entering the temple, but activists celebrated.
“Watching the visuals of them making their way into the shrine makes me cry in joy — how long it has taken for us to claim space, to write our way into history,” wrote feminist author Meena Kandasamy on Twitter.
“This is a good beginning for women in the new year,” said activist Trupti Desai.

September’s verdict was the latest progressive ruling from the court, with judges also overturning bans on gay sex and adultery last year — posing a challenge to Modi’s traditionalist BJP.
In rare comments regarding the Sabarimala temple on Tuesday, Modi — running for a second term in elections later this year — appeared to support the ban, saying the matter was related to tradition.
“There are some temples which have their own traditions, where men can’t go. And men don’t go,” Modi told Indian media.
The restriction on women at Sabarimala, situated on top of a 3,000-foot (915-meter) hill in a tiger reserve that takes hours to climb, reflects a belief — not exclusive to Hinduism — that menstruating women are impure.
Traditionalists argue also that the temple deity, Ayyappa, was celibate.
Repeated efforts by women to enter the temple since September have been angrily rebuffed by Hindu devotees with police having to step in to escort them away to safety.
The Supreme Court is to start hearing a legal challenge to its ruling on January 22.
Women are still barred from a handful of Hindu temples in India. The entry of women at Sabarimala was taboo for generations and formalized by the Kerala High Court in 1991.

Malaysian fish farm aims to dip into $1.64bn global caviar market

Updated 36 min 47 sec ago

Malaysian fish farm aims to dip into $1.64bn global caviar market

  • Owners of luxury T’lur Caviar brand ‘accidentally’ stumbled upon prized delicacy
  • alaysia does not have a proper winter, sturgeon can be harvested there 50 percent faster than globally

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian fish farming business is hoping to dip into the multibillion-dollar global market for caviar after accidentally stumbling into producing the gourmet delicacy.

When Taiwanese entrepreneur Chien Wei Ho, one of the owners of the T’lur Caviar brand, first started harvesting sturgeon in Malaysia, he never expected to end up in the lucrative caviar trade.

Wei Ho and his group of Malaysian sturgeon farmers were based in a country not best-suited for harvesting caviar, mainly due to a lack of technological support and unfavorable weather conditions.

It was only after 10 years of sturgeon farming that the business partners “accidentally” discovered the “gold mine” after one of the fish had to be euthanized. When they cut it open, its egg sack was full of caviar.

“He (Wei Ho) was taken aback. For many years he had been told the fish could not have caviars,” Shaun Kenneth Simon, T’lur’s chief marketing officer told Arab News.

A company director came up with the idea to “market the caviars instead of just selling fish,” and before long they were swimming against the tide cultivating the prized delicacy for Malaysian clients.

“What we are doing here is very different from other countries. We discovered the caviars by chance,” said Simon.

He said that 12 years ago, Wei Ho – who also owns several resorts in Taiwan – was cultivating fish and flower farms and was well-known for growing beautiful orchids. “Rearing sturgeon was just a hobby for him.”

However, when a typhoon struck Taiwan and destroyed all his farms, Wei Ho decided to look for a safer place to operate from.

“Through his friends, he came to Tanjung Malim, in Perak, where he decided to dabble in the sturgeon farm business in Malaysia,” Simon said.

Malaysia was the obvious choice, he added, especially since it was rarely impacted by natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes.

Nevertheless, big challenges were in store for Wei Ho. Experts, including a German aquaculture specialist, warned that the fish would probably not live past three years old, let alone lay eggs.

“Malaysia has a warm tropical climate and without any expensive, climate-controlled machinery to keep the water cool, many advised Wei Ho that the fish would not survive,” Simon added.

To overcome the hurdle, Wei Ho used local aquaculture techniques to acclimatize the sturgeon to Malaysia’s climate. “Basically, we taught the fish how to survive in Malaysia’s temperature.”

The process worked, but Wei Ho had only planned to rear and sell the fish, not harvest caviar.

Sturgeon have a lucrative market potential because they are high in collagen and rich in omega oils.

Because Malaysia does not have a proper winter, sturgeon can be harvested there 50 percent faster than anywhere else in the world.

Seven species are reared on the farm, but the ones used for caviar are Siberian and Amur.

The brand name T’lur also came about by chance. “Because international brands have cool names, we thought ‘why not call it telur?’ which means eggs in Malay language. And because we were all Malaysians, we put an apostrophe in the word to make it sound French,” Simon said.

Currently, T’lur caviar is marketed only in Malaysia despite growing demand from neighboring countries, but the company is planning to go global. Most of its customers are chefs from fine-dining city restaurants.

“We are bringing something new to Malaysia, which is not really known for producing luxury products. We are learning to refine this further to bring it to a higher standard,” he added.

Caviar is a high-end luxury delicacy that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per kilogram. One of the most expensive in the luxury market is beluga caviar, mainly found in the world’s largest salt-water lake, the Caspian Sea.

With an insatiable appetite for fish eggs from several countries around the world, the market for the product is expected to be worth $1.64 billion (SR6.11 billion) by 2025, according to a survey conducted by Adroit Market Research.

The study revealed that greater access to international cuisine, along with stronger purchasing powers, had seen demand soar.