The Indian state of Kerala was on lockdown on Friday after violent protests saw more than 1,000 people arrested after women were admitted to an historic Hindu temple.
Fresh demonstrations hit several towns and cities after a 46-year-old Sri Lankan woman became the third female of “menstruating age” to enter the Sabarimala temple complex, late on Thursday.
The woman known only as Sasikala is the third female under 50 – after Bindu Ammini, 42, and Kanakadurga, 44 – to offer prayers at the hilltop shrine, triggering violence across the state, police said on Friday.
Sasikala entered the temple 10 minutes before it was due to close on Thursday night, accompanied by her husband. She claimed her uterus was removed after an operation meaning she does not qualify as a menstruating women, the Hindustan Times reported.
A curfew was enforced in some parts of the state as police took part in Operation Broken Window, designed to quell mass disturbances after a general strike was called by a number of Right-wing Hindu groups.
The row stems from a supreme court ruling in September that declared it illegal for the Sabarimala temple to deny access to female worshippers on the grounds that menstruation offends the celibate deity Lord Ayyappa.
The state government, led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has supported the rights of women to enter the temple, leading to religious extremists labelling them and Pinarayi Vijayan, the the chief minister, “godless atheists”.
Kerala police on Friday said they will step up security for the chief minister following threats over the temple controversy.
TK Vinodkumar, chief of the police intelligence wing, said though Mr Vijayan will continue to be in the highest security category, some extra security measures had been taken.
Also in an incident never seen before in the state, 24 buses of the Kerala Road Transport Corporation, which had their broken windows during protests, were paraded on the streets of the state capital, Thiruvananthapuram.
The bus leading the procession carried a banner which read, “I am not responsible for this. Please don’t vandalise me as I’m the source of livelihood for many people”.