Britain warns on travel to southern India after temple unrest

Police stand inside the premises of the Sabarimala temple in Pathanamthitta district in the southern state of Kerala, India, October 17, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 06 January 2019

Britain warns on travel to southern India after temple unrest

  • Hindu groups believe that women of menstruating age should not enter the temple because they are “impure” and the temple deity, Ayyappa, was celibate

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India: Britain on Saturday warned tourists visiting the southern Indian state of Kerala after sporadic violence in recent days over the admission of women to one of Hinduism’s holiest temples.
In updated travel advice, London advised UK nationals in Kerala, popular with tourists particularly at this time of year, to “monitor media reports closely, remain vigilant and avoid large public gatherings.”
The Sabarimala temple has been at the center of a prolonged showdown between traditionalists and authorities since September, when India’s top court overturned a ban on women of menstruating age — deemed as those aged 10 to 50 — setting foot inside.
After several weeks of hard-liners preventing women from accessing the hilltop temple, at times violently, earlier this week two women managed to sneak inside before dawn and become the first to worship there since the landmark ruling.
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.
The entry of the women has sparked days of clashes across Kerala involving enraged Hindu devotees, riot police using tear gas and water cannon, and activists from Kerala’s leftist state government — which supports the entry of women.
One man died and almost 300 people have been injured including more than 100 police officers and some 10 journalists, police say. More than 3,000 protesters have either been arrested or taken into preventive custody.
Police said Saturday that unidentified attackers hurled a homemade bomb at the home of a politician from the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and set ablaze the office the hard-line Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) group.
Both are opposed to the court’s order to allow women inside the temple.
No injuries were reported in the blast or the fire, 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.

Kerala has a history of political violence between Hindu and the left-leaning parties.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist BJP has 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’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

Updated 25 min 54 sec ago

UK’s Boris Johnson likens himself to The Incredible Hulk

  • Johnson said he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what
  • “The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the Mail

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has compared himself to The Incredible Hulk in a newspaper interview emphasizing his determination to take Britain out of the European Union next month.
Johnson faces considerable legal and political hurdles but told the Mail on Sunday he will meet the Oct. 31 deadline no matter what.
“The madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets,” he told the widely read tabloid, invoking the comic book and film character known for formidable but destructive strength.
Johnson remains defiant even though Parliament has passed a law requiring him to seek an extension to the deadline if no deal is reached by mid-October. He has also lost his working majority in Parliament and been told by Scotland’s highest court that his decision to suspend Parliament was illegal.
Johnson portrays himself as more convinced than ever that Britain will break with the EU at the end of October.
He will have a lunchtime meeting in Luxembourg on Monday with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to try to modify the Irish backstop that has been a main sticking point, but EU leaders did not seem impressed by Johnson’s invocation of the Hulk.
The European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator, Guy Verhofstadt, said the comments showed a lack of maturity.
“Even to Trumpian standards the Hulk comparison is infantile,” he tweeted. “Is the EU supposed to be scared by this? The British public impressed?“
Juncker, who has downplayed hopes of a breakthrough at Monday’s meeting, also expressed alarm that many people in Britain seem to feel a British departure without a deal with the EU would be a positive thing.
“It would be terrible chaos,” he said in an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “And we would need years to put things back in order. Anyone who loves his country, and I assume that there are still patriots in Britain, would not want to wish his country such a fate.”
The Oct. 31 deadline looms large because Johnson has not said he will seek another extension if no deal is reached, despite legislation passed by Parliament shortly before it was suspended.
Britain’s Supreme Court this week will rule on whether Johnson overstepped the law when he shut the legislature for a crucial five-week period.
The Liberal Democrats, who have been enjoying a revival, voted overwhelmingly at their party conference Sunday to end the Brexit process entirely if they come to power.
Party leader Jo Swinson said Article 50, which triggered Brexit, would be revoked if she becomes prime minister.
The party gained an important member Saturday with the defection of Sam Gyimah, a former Conservative minister. He is the sixth legislator to switch allegiance and join the Liberal Democrats this year.
Johnson also continues to take flak from former Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the 2016 referendum on Brexit.
Cameron said in an interview published Sunday that Johnson didn’t really believe in Brexit when he broke ranks and led the campaign to take Britain out of the EU. Cameron had been expecting Johnson’s help during the hard-fought campaign.
Cameron says of Johnson: “The conclusion I am left with is that he risked an outcome he didn’t believe in because it would help his political career.”
Cameron is giving interviews to gain publicity for his upcoming memoirs.