Protesters block women scribes, attack cars near Sabarimala

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Through the day, protesters had been trying to enforce the centuries-old bar on the entry of women of reproductive age in the temple, which was scrapped by the Supreme Court last month.

"None would be stopped nor would anyone be allowed to take law into their hands".

The Sabarimala chief priest, Kandararu Maheshwararu Tantri, 25, warned this week that "anger could easily escalate into violence if a few egotistical women try to enter" the temple. They went after her.

On Wednesday, the Hindu shrine will open its gates for the first time since 28 September, after the supreme court struck down an entry ban on women of menstruating age. Easwar, who was kept at the Pamba police station, said Ayyappa devotees only wanted their right under Article 25 of the constitution that provided for freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion to be protected.

Similar protests in and around the temple town forced a 45-year-old woman from Andhra Pradesh and her family to abandon their trip to the Ayyappa temple.

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Women devotees have also gathered at Nilackal where firebrand right wing Hindu leader K P Sasikala would address a gathering.

The BJP and its NDA partners have backed a 12-hour "hartal" called by Sabarimala Action Council to protest the police action against devotees. Protestors wearing black and saffron turbans were seen kicking vehicles in order to stop them from heading to Pamba from Nikakkal, PTI reported.

Women were also permitted to enter Mumbai's Haji Ali Dargah mausoleum, a Muslim place of worship, after the Supreme Court scrapped a ban in 2016.

Several protesters were seen being bundled into police vehicles, while siren blaring ambulances carried some to hospitals.

At Nilackal, a base camp below the temple, police cleared protesters early Wednesday morning and arrested seven people who were stopping vehicles.

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Although the couple had said that they would go only up to Pamba and not climb Sabarimala, the activists stopped them from proceeding.

Some activists of the Sabarimala Achara Samrakshana Samiti, who had stayed back at Nilackal, also allegedly prevented mediapersons from carrying out their work.

Television video showed the protesters turning violent and attacking the cars and vans of some female reporters and TV crew members some distance from the temple. He said that various devotee forums would chant prayers and not protest. Over 1000 additional police personnel are positioned in Pamba and Nilakkal, he said. On Tuesday, devotees took to the streets to "screen" vehicles and prevent girls and women between the ages of 10 and 50 from visiting the holy Hindu shrine.

Several temples across India have banned women, saying the policy is meant to preserve the purity of their shrines.

The Sabarimala temple doors would be closed on October 22 after the five-day monthly prayer during the Malayalam month of Thulam.

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