A '620km human chain' - Indian Women Rally for Equality

Some 5 Million Indian Women Form Massive Human Chain for Gender Equality (PHOTO)

In a first ever, two women below the age of 50 on Wednesday entered the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala.

Sabarimala Karma Samiti, which spearheaded the "Nama Japam" agitation against the state government's decision to implement the apex court order allowing women of all ages into Sabarimala, sought the chief minister's resignation. The ban was informal for many years, but became law in 1972.

According to a report, two women - Bindu and Kanakadurga - who tried for darshan last week, told a news channel that they had darshan on Wednesday at 3.30 am. Despite the ban being overturned in September, no women have been able to enter the temple until now because of massive protests.

Another woman, Tanuja Bhattadri, observed: "Sabarimala is not the main issue here today". There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Lakhs of women in Kerala on Tuesday had built a 620 km-long "women's wall" from Kasargod in the north to Thiruvananthapuram in the south to send out a message of gender equality.

Footage has emerged showing part of the human chain in the city of Thrissur after the "women's wall" was organised by Kerala state's left-wing coalition government on Tuesday.

Detractors are calling it an "entry by stealth", but for those who have been on the side of the Supreme Court's verdict, it marks a new dawn.

Opponents of the ruling say the celibacy of the temple's presiding deity, Lord Ayyappa, is protected by India's Constitution, and that women of all ages can worship at other Hindu temples. Traditionally, girls and women in the menstruating age group of 10-50 years are barred at the shrine. The women were part of a Chennai-based women rights organisation, "Manithi", which had chose to meet another group of 15 women from Kerala before beginning their journey to the temple.

Many Hindu groups as well as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fiercely oppose the court ruling.

Reacting to the entry of the two women into the temple, senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala said it showed the "headstrong attitude" of the chief minister.

"One small step for women, one giant leap for equality".

The Women's Wall demonstration comes less than a week after BJP-backed right-wing groups organized their own human chain to protest the Supreme Court verdict.

The fact is that such a mass scale of mobilisation of women can not be ignored, their issues can not be trivialised.

The Supreme Court is to start hearing a legal challenge to its ruling on 22 January. He performed a "purification" ritual (Shudikalasam) for an hour before the doors were opened again.

According to the temple's mythology, Lord Ayyappa is an avowed bachelor who has taken an oath of celibacy.

In October, devotees clashed with police leading to the arrest of more than 2,000 people.

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