KOCHI/NEW DELHI, Oct 19 (Reuters) - Hundreds of hardline Hindu protesters blocked two women from entering a south Indian hill temple on Friday in a third day of heated protests against the lifting of a ban on women of menstrual age.
Three dozen priests staged a sit-in against the Supreme Court decision which overturned a ban that prevented women of between the age of 10 and 50 entering the Sabarimala temple, which pays homage to the celibate God Ayyappan, in the southwest state of Kerala.
Some Hindu communities consider menstruating women unclean.
“They have decided to go back provided we give them protection,” Kerala’s Inspector General, S. Sreejith, told reporters of the two women, adding the head priest threatened to close the temple if they entered.
Television channels showed topless men sitting in protest at the temple entrance, clapping and shouting religious chants, even as hundreds of police tried to calm tensions.
Hindu hardliners including youth members of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have been involved in violent clashes with police in Kerala and have attacked women including journalists who have tried to get to the temple this week.
A photograph on the front page of an Indian newspaper on Thursday showed a female journalist pleading with protesters after a mob surrounded her car and damaged it. (Reporting by Jose Devasia in KOCHI and Malini Menon in NEW DELHI; Writing by Sudarshan Varadhan; Editing by Nick Macfie)