Fresh clashes erupt in India as Hindu hardliners went on rampage

Fresh clashes erupt in India as Hindu hardliners went on rampage

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India - Clashes broke out in southern India for a second day Thursday as Hindu hardliners went on the rampage, seeking to enforce a general shutdown in protest at two women entering one of the country’s holiest temples.

A day after violence among rival groups and with police left one man dead and 15 people injured, authorities said that 266 protestors had been arrested across the state of Kerala.

Anger erupted among Hindu traditionalists on Wednesday after news that the two women in their 40s, escorted by police and dressed in black, wrong-footed devotees to sneak into the Sabarimala temple via a side entrance before dawn to pray.

This was the first time that any woman of menstruating age -- deemed as those aged between 10 and 50 -- had set foot in the gold-plated temple, located on a hilltop in a tiger reserve, since India’s Supreme Court overturned a ban in September.

Thousands of Hindu devotees, many of them female, had previously succeeded in preventing women from accessing the site in the weeks following the landmark ruling, with some hardliners throwing stones at police and assaulting female journalists.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of women, in a local government-backed initiative, had braved harassment to form a huge human chain called the "Women’s Wall" across Kerala to back the demand for access to the temple.

Kerala police told AFP that the man who died on Wednesday was part of a demonstration organised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). - APP / AFP