Police in southern India said on Friday, that a third woman has entered a flashpoint temple, stoking tensions after two days of clashes involving Hindu hardliners and police.
The Sabarimala temple in Kerala state has been at the centre of a prolonged showdown since India’s top court overturned in September a ban on women aged 10 to 50 setting foot inside.
Before dawn on Wednesday two women in their 40s, escorted by police, bare-footed devotees became the first to access the shrine since the landmark verdict, sneaking in via a side entrance. They remained under police protection on Friday.
The third to enter the temple, on Thursday night, was a Sri Lankan woman, police said.
“She entered the temple yesterday night. She is 47 years old and came as a devotee. We were aware and watched the situation,” Balram Kumar Upadhyay, a police official, told AFP.
Upadhyay said that the situation at the temple on Friday was “normal for now.”
Thousands of Hindu hardliners, 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.
Wednesday’s news sparked uproar among Hindu devotees, including many in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, who believe that women of menstruating age should not enter the temple because the diety it is dedicated to, Ayyappa, was celibate.