Female reporters attacked near Sabarimala temple in dispute over ban on women

Mob attempts to block first entry of women of menstruating age to sacred Hindu temple

Women are permitted to enter most Hindu temples but female devotees are still barred from entry by some. "Supreme Court rule applies to all, the government is just following and implementing it".

Pooja Prasaanna of the Republic TV channel said the protesters hurled stones at a police van where she and her crew members had taken shelter after their vehicle was targeted, and snatched away batons carried by some police officers who tried to shield them.

Pilgrims have for centuries visited the Sabarimala temple, in a remote tiger reserve in the Western Ghats mountain range. As soon as she arrived at the bus terminal, police formed a protective ring around her and escorted her to a safe place.

The Network of Women in Media, India, denounced the attacks.

K Surendran, Kerala BJP's General Secretary, alleged in a press statement at Sabarimala on Wednesday that the government was in cahoots with the Devaswom Board and was "attacking and manhandling" devotees.

The entry of women at Sabarimala was long taboo but was formalised by the Kerala High Court in 1991, a ruling overturned by India's Supreme Court last month. Protesters, who had gathered at Nilakal, about 20 km from the foothills of the temple, have been removed.

Some people were taken into custody by police at Nilackal for staging protests against the decision to allow women in the menstruating age into the Ayyappa shrine.

Police arrested 11 protesters when they tried to block the path of some females.

A female journalist from CNN NEWS 18 was attacked by protesters, who smashed the windows of the auto she was traveling in in view of the police, footage from the channel showed.

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A reporter from The News Minute (TNM) and another from the Republic TV were brutally attacked by the protesters though they were in Nilakkal.

Industries Minister and veteran CPM leader EP Jayarajan said that those opposing the entry of women to the temple will face the wrath of Lord Ayyappa.

They were allowed to go in only after they showed proof that they were aged above 50.

Congress is not attacking anybody and definitely attack on journalists is not tolerable.

Lustily chanting "Swamiya Saranam Ayyappa" hailing the Lord, the devotees checked buses and private vehicles for girls and women of the "banned" age group and forced them to abandon their journey.

"It was shocking that officers were there doing nothing", the reporter, Radhika Ramaswamy, said in a broadcast by the station.

Police personnel were deployed at Pamba, Nilakkal and Erumeli, three important landmarks on the route to Sabarimala.

Meanwhile, state opposition leader from the Congress party, which also staged a protest at the base camp in Nilakkal, Pathanamthitta, said that this was a question of faith and that can not be questioned. "The BJP-RSS are trying to create tension and destroy the peaceful atmosphere in Kerala for political gain".

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