Police clear protesters as Indian temple prepares to accept women

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Local TV crew said she is in her late 40s and if she climbed the hill, she would be the first woman of the menstrual age group to visit the Sabarimala temple of Lord Ayyappa after the Supreme Court order permitting women of all age groups to enter the shrine.

It appears that she has chose to terminate the climb at Marakkoottom following vehement protests from Sangh Parivar activists.

Stray incidents of violence were reported during a hartal called by Hindu fringe outfits against the decision to allow entry of women in Sabarimala temple.

A male journalist from Asianet present at the site reports that protesters who spotted Suhasini were chanting "Swami Ayyappa" and then hurling the choicest of abuses at her in practically the same breath.

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Nilackal, the entry point of the temple, turned into a venue of protests by various groups that opposed the entry of younger women to the shrine.

However, protesters stoned buses at several places on the way to the hilltop temple.

Chennai: A woman devotee hailing from Kollam district in Kerala was sacked from her job in a private firm after she announced her proposed pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple, which opened its doors to females of menstruating age from Wednesday following a Supreme Court order last month.

At Nilackal, a base camp below the temple, police cleared protestors early Wednesday morning and arrested seven people who were stopping vehicles. A female reporter was also forced to get down from the bus. She was escorted to safety by police.

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Protest and tension mounted as Suhasini Raj reached Marakkoottom, despite heavy police bandobast.

BJP is supporting the bandh but the Congress is yet to take a decision on it. Congress leaders are set to approach the high command in Delhi to seek approval as it fears that the right wing outfits, including BJP and RSS, may hijack the emotional issue, denting its vote bank, especially the upper caste Hindus. An embattled Left Front government reacted sharply to the protests, with the state's religious trusts minister Kadakampally Surendran calling them "politically motivated". Carrying "Irumudikettu" (the sacred bundle containing ghee-filled coconuts they offer to the deity), they calmly walked past security personnel to take their place in the long queue where they would wait for hours on end for a glimpse of Lord Ayyappa. The temple has been out of bounds for menstruating women in the name of centuries-old custom. Though many women tried, but none from this age group could make it to the famed hilltop shrine.

The shrine will remain open for the 5-day monthly pooja during the Malayalam month of Thulam before being closed on 22 October.

A 12-hour state-wide shutdown has been called today.

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