Violence and Clashes erupt in India after two women enter Hinduism holiest temples

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Violence and Clashes erupt in India after two women enter Hinduism holiest temples

Thiruvananthapuram - Violence erupted in southern India on Wednesday after two women defied traditionalists to enter one of Hinduism's holiest temples for the first time since a landmark court ruling.

Police fired tear gas, stun grenades and water cannon as protests and clashes between rival groups erupted across the southern state of Kerala, local media reported. Several officers were reportedly injured.

The Supreme Court in September overturned a decades-old ban on women of menstruating age -- deemed as those between 10 and 50 -- setting foot inside the gold-plated Sabarimala temple.

In recent weeks Hindu traditionalists -- backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) -- have prevented attempts by women to access the hilltop site, with some hardliners turning violent.

But in a surprise pre-dawn operation on Wednesday heralded by activists but enraging conservative devotees, police enabled two women to penetrate the hilltop temple and then leave again undetected, officials confirmed.

Video images showed the 42-year-old women, Kanaka Durga and Bindu, who has only one name, wearing black tunics with their heads bowed as they rushed in.

"We did not enter the shrine by climbing the 18 holy steps but went through the staff gate," one of the women, who both remained under police guard on Wednesday, later told reporters.

Kerala's Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said: "It is a fact that the women entered the shrine. Police are bound to offer protection to anyone wanting to worship at the shrine." - APP/AFP