Violence rages over Indian flashpoint Hindu temple

Police detain an Indian activist amid demonstrations after women entered the Sabarimala temple, in Kochi in southern Kerala state, on Friday, January 4. (AFP)
Updated 05 January 2019

Violence rages over Indian flashpoint Hindu temple

  • More than 3,000 protesters have either been arrested or taken into preventive custody
  • Kerala has a history of political violence between Hindu and the left-leaning parties

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Twin arson and bomb attacks rocked southern India Saturday, continuing a violent backlash that followed the entry of two women into a Hindu temple that forbids female devotees.
The Sabarimala temple in Kerala state has been at the center of a prolonged showdown between religious hard-liners and authorities since September, when India’s top court overturned a ban on women aged 10 to 50 setting foot inside.
Police said unidentified attackers hurled a homemade bomb at the home of a politician from the rightwing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and set ablaze the office of its Hindu nationalist parent group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
Both are opposed to the court’s order to allow women inside the temple.
No injuries were reported, police said.
The fresh attacks came hours after unknown attackers bombed the house of a politician linked to the state’s ruling Communist Party, which has vowed to implement the court order.
One person has died and more than 270 others have been injured since Wednesday, when thousands protested after two women devotees in their 40s prayed inside the temple.
The two local women had become the first to access the shrine since the landmark verdict and months-long of siege by Hindu hard-liners that forced dozens of women devotees to retreat from the gold-plated hilltop temple.
A third woman from Sri Lanka said she entered the temple on Thursday night but this was disputed by the temple authorities, who performed a “purification” ritual after the two other women made their way into the shrine.
More than 3,000 protesters have either been arrested or taken into preventive custody after multiple clashes between police and demonstrators.
Kerala has a history of political violence between Hindu and the left-leaning parties but tensions in the region have escalated since the women entered the temple on January 2.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a member of the BJP, joined calls by his party and the RSS for a statewide shutdown to protest the women’s entrance.
Modi’s party accuses the state government of backing “anti-religious” groups to violate Hindu traditions.
Hindu groups believe that women of menstruating age should not enter the temple because they are “impure” and the temple deity, Ayyappa, was celibate.
The Communist Party has accused the BJP and RSS of inciting violence in the state.
Women are barred from a handful of Hindu temples in India, including Sabarimala, where it was considered a taboo for centuries before the ban was given legal force by Kerala High Court in 1991.
But the Supreme Court in a landmark judgment in September overturned the Kerala court’s ruling after six women lawyers petitioned it in 2006, challenging a ban they said violated their fundamental rights.


UK police arrest man after stabbing at London Central Mosque

Updated 19 min 46 sec ago

UK police arrest man after stabbing at London Central Mosque

  • Victim was treated by paramedics before being taken to hospital
  • Man who was attacked in his 70s and stabbed multiple times

LONDON: A man attacked the elderly muezzin at one of London’s main mosques on Thursday, stabbing him in the neck before being arrested.

Metropolitan Police said they were called to London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park after reports of a stabbing.

Police were called to London Central Mosque, also known as Regent's Park mosque, on the city's Park Road to reports of a stabbing. (James Stringer/Flickr)

The attack targeted the muezzin, who performs the mosque’s call to prayer, the Muslim hate crime monitor TellMAMA, said. 

The man who was attacked is in his 70s and was stabbed multiple times, Sky News reported.


He was treated by paramedics before being taken to hospital. His injuries are thought to be non-life threatening.

Police said a man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of attempted murder and a crime scene was put in place.

Video showed police subduing a man inside the mosque before leading him away in handcuffs. He was wearing a red hooded top and no shoes. 

Director-general of the Islamic Cultural Centre, part of the mosque, Dr. Ahmad Al-Dubayan described the attack and the emergency services’ response while confirming the victim was in a good condition.

He told Arab News: “We don’t have any information about the motive for this incident, why he did this or who he is even.

“Of course, we are unhappy about what happened, but we all hope that it was an individual attack and nothing linked to anything further than this attack itself.

“But we are worried and sorry about what has happened.” 

A makeshift area for sunset prayers was set up in the mosque so that worshippers could still pray despite the incident.