Police in Kerala have arrested more than 2,000 people in the past few days in a crackdown on demonstrators protesting against allowing women of menstrual age into Sabarimala hill temple, state officials said.
Conservative Hindu groups last week prevented women from entering the temple, clashing with police and damaging cars and buses, in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling that lifted a centuries-old ban on women or girls aged from 10 years to 50.
The Supreme Court last month declared the ban illegal, saying it infringed the right to worship.
“We have registered around 450 cases and arrested around 2,000 people so far,” the state’s top police official Loknath Behera was quoted as saying by ANI News, a Reuters partner.
“We have identified several others and more arrests will be made. We will do what must lawfully be done,” Behera added.
It is unclear how many people have been charged as many of the cases could involve more than one individual.
State authorities had appealed to the protesters not to turn the area around the temple into a battlefield last week. But many who believed in the ban took to the streets, thwarting efforts by a few women to visit the temple when it opened for a few days last week.
They say that the ban was essential to the rites related to the temple’s chief deity Ayyappan, considered eternally celibate. In some Hindu communities, menstruating women are regarded as unclean, leading to restrictions and in a few cases outright bans from entering certain places.