Indian police clash with protesters over women in Hindu temple

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Pillai said that the two women who visited the temple were not devotees but Left activists, who have helped the ruling party in implementing its agenda in Sabarimala. The move led to large protests across the state.

The restriction on women at Sabarimala, situated on top of a 3,000-foot (915-metre) hill in a tiger reserve that takes hours to climb, reflects a belief - not exclusive to Hinduism - that menstruating women are impure.

India's Supreme Court ordered a lifting of the ban in September. The ban has been imposed on all women and girls between the ages of 10 and 50.

Two women entered a Hindu temple in Kerala early on Wednesday, a day after thousands of women formed a human chain across the southern state.

"The government will provide protection if any women come forward to enter the temple", Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, said.

After the ruling, more than a dozen women between the ages of 10 and 50 attempted to enter the temple.

The "Women's wall" was conceived in the backdrop of frenzied protests witnessed in the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala after the Kerala government made a decision to implement the Supreme Court verdict, allowing women of all ages to offer prayers at the shrine.

Clashes between police and demonstrators broke out simultaneously in several towns throughout the state, including a large-scale conflict in front of the state parliament in Thiruvananthapuram. Several police officers were injured as protesters threw stones. Police used stun grenades, tear gas shells and water cannons to disperse the protesters.

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The leader of opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the entry of the women into the shrine "hurt" the sentiments of devotees. Bindu, who serves as a guest lecturer in the legal studies department of Kannur University, described the fete as the first step towards ensuring gender equality in the famous temple.

Indian women stand in a line to take part in a "women's wall" protest in Kochi in southern Kerala state on January 1, 2019.

On Wednesday, hundreds of women in Mumbai, India's financial capital, also formed a human chain to express support for the women in Kerala.

On January 22, the Supreme Court will hear a petition challenging its landmark ruling on the temple. They also note that women of all ages can worship at other Hindu temples.

Meanwhile, the state government defended its decision to protect the women, insisting it was a matter of civil rights. But the position has drawn criticism from other political parties.

The Kerala state government is run by left-wing parties and it has sought to allow women into the temple - a position that has drawn the criticism of both of India's main political parties, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Modi, in an interview with ANI on Tuesday, indicated he felt that the temple issue was more about a religious tradition than gender equality.

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