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VIOLENCE flared in many parts of Kerala today as a “general strike” called by Hindu chauvinists in protest against women’s right to enter a temple saw supporters of India’s ruling BJP clash with police, feminists and communists.
The strike was called by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, a local platform organised by the BJP’s street fighter wing the RSS to co-ordinate resistance to last September’s Supreme Court ruling that women should be allowed to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, a decision which right-wing Hindu groups say offends its deity.
The BJP sees the mass action as a counter-attack following the 5.5 million-strong “women’s wall” organised in support of women’s rights by the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) on New Year’s Day.
In contrast to the women’s wall, the BJP protest was marked by repeated outbreaks of violence, with RSS vandals torching a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Kayamkulam and attacking vehicles delivering food packets to the poor in Alappuzha, scattering the prepared meals on the ground.
CPI-M offices were attacked across the state and 79 buses were wrecked. The party, which leads Kerala’s government, said large numbers of civilians, mostly women, had been attacked.
Pinarayi Vijayan said the action was a clear attempt to subvert the ruling of the Supreme Court and repeated that protecting women’s right to enter the temple was a duty of the police.
“Violence will not be tolerated … the Sangh Parivar” [Hindu community groups aligned to the BJP] “is organising violence in the street,” he said.
Mr Vijayan dismissed BJP claims that the communists were imposing women on Sabarimala, insisting: “The [Keralan] government has no intention of making any woman enter the temple. But those who visit voluntarily will be provided with protection.”
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