Showdown near Sabarimala temple, two women turned back

Mob attempts to block first entry of women of menstruating age to sacred Hindu temple

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PTIThe famous Sabarimala temple in Kerala opened its doors on Wednesday evening amid protests and clashes.

While most of the organisations will hold peaceful protests, the Shiv Sena and the Ayyappa Dharma Sena said they will prevent women of the menstruating age group from entering the hill shrine.

The mob then turned on journalists - seemingly in the belief that they hadn't had a fair hearing in the national press - although the targets appeared to be women.

Pathanamthitta district collector P.B. Nooh, who clamped the orders, said utmost restraint had been used, hoping the protesters would agitate peacefully.

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"The Sabarimala issue should not be allowed to flare up". Industries minister E P Jayarajan, the de facto in charge of the government in the absence of chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who is in UAE to mobilise funds for post-flood reconstruction, said the state was duty-bound to implement the SC order.

Both the Congress - the main opposition party in Kerala - and the BJP, which is desperately seeking to expand its footprint in the state, have lent support to the agitation against the Supreme Court verdict. Several policemen have been deployed at the temple to control the mobs who are determined to stop any woman from entering the temple as tradition bars women's entry. Chaos and mayhem on the road leading from Nilackal, the gateway to the shrine, 20 km away, to Pamba in the foothills from where the devotees start the arduous 6-km trek to Sabarimala reigned supreme, as activists of fought pitched battles with police, leaving many injured and bleeding.

A 45-year-old devotee from Andhra Pradesh, who came with her kin to worship Ayyappa at the Sabarimala temple, was blocked by the unruly protesters.

"Protesters had free rein, attacking our vehicle". Her daughter, Mallika Nambudiri (57), was also forcefully removed by police from the protest venue.

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"Considering the gravity of the matter, it is therefore requested that appropriate stringent action may be taken against people who are taking the law into their hands and a detailed action taken report in the matter may be intimated to the Commission at an early date..." But it did not happen that way.

Kerala's communist government, that runs the state along secular lines, has pledged to uphold the court ruling. They were successful in guarding her even though the the crowd tried to breach the protective circle of police personnel. Police have registered cases against more than 50 people, local media reported. "A woman also tried to throw a water bottle at Saritha", The News Minute reported. They'd gathered around a fork in the road, blocking the road, looking for women of "menstruating age".

Indian police with batons on Wednesday (Oct 17) charged a group of more than one hundred protestors trying to prevent women accessing one of the country's holiest Hindu sites, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

However, a woman journalist of a foreign media outlet began trekking to the hill amid protests along with a foreign colleague, with police forming a security ring around them.

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