Women in India form '620km human chain' in fight for equality

Protesters shout slogans as they take part in a rally called by various Hindu organisations after two women entered the Sabarimala temple in Kochi India

Protesters shout slogans as they take part in a rally called by various Hindu organisations after two women entered the Sabarimala temple in Kochi India

Almost 1,500 women formed a human chain at Shivaji Park Recalling progressive movements in the state against caste oppression, gender inequality and feudalism, participants condemned "reactionary elements" who are mobilizing groups to disallow women into the shrine. This is the first time these women have managed to enter the temple after the Supreme Court's verdict.

Organisers had predicted a turnout of around three million.

In some Hindu communities, menstruating women are regarded as unclean, leading to restrictions and in a few cases outright bans from entering certain places. I don't think tradition or any kind of backwardness should stop women. "I believe men and women are equal". India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has pursued a Hindu nationalist agenda, has painted the September court ruling as an attack on traditional Hindu values.

Those supporting the ban on women entering the Sabarimala shrine say it goes against the temple's idealogy.

The issue has become increasingly contentious in the run-up to India's general election, scheduled for April and May. Critics have accused the BJP of exacerbating religious tensions in order to rally their conservative Hindu base.

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Most Hindu temples allow women to enter if they are not now menstruating, rather than disallowing women from a broad age group, according to the BBC.

Their efforts to enter the temple were foiled by angry devotees two weeks ago and police reportedly advised them not to make their pilgrimage plan public and offered them all help if they come discreetly.

Bindu and Kanakadurga had tried visiting the temple late last month too, but failed amidst massive protests.

Women from all walks of life participated in the programme, which the LDF had posited as a political counter to Hindu right-wing forces opposed to the entry of women to Sabarimala. But they were forced to stop metres from the temple after clashing with other protestors.

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