Hindu nationalists are hell bent to scuttle the Supreme Court judgment.

Two women devotees, Kanakadurga and Bindu, created history in Kerala, the south Indian state, when they entered Sabarimala Temple and accessed the sanctum sanctorum after the Supreme Court of India nullified an age-old ban on women aged between 10 years to 50 years from entering the sacred Hindu temple in September 2018. The court ruled that the centuries-old practice was discriminatory. It supported the argument that women can pray wherever they want to.

The women trekked the long road uphill to the Sabarimala temple. Plainclothes police officers accompanied the two. They left the temple after offering their prayers to Lord Ayappa, the presiding deity. Hindu traditionalists cite celibacy as a reason to stop women below 50 years of age to enter inside the temple premises. They are afraid the presence of women will tempt the deity. The devout believe Lord Ayappa himself has laid down a few clear rules concerning pilgrimage participants.

Such caution was necessary as Hindu nationalists supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have vehemently opposed the entry of women of menstruating age into the temple. They said the court decision was a direct attack on the Hindu religion and its values. The issue has become a hot-button one, not only in Kerala, but all over India as the country gears up to vote for its general parliamentary election, slated to be in April and May. The BJP is in power at the center while its arch-rival, the Communist Party of India, holds sway in Kerala. Critics have accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of pursuing a divisive agenda to remain in power.

On January 1, 2019, thousands of Malayalis (as Kerala residents are known) formed a 380 kilometers long human chain across the length of Kerala state to demonstrate their full support towards gender equality. The Kerala Government backed the human chain. Political commentators are afraid the call for strikes could lead to more violence. Seema Mustafa, one political commentator, said the BJP will likely press on this issue, despite the progressive ruling by the Supreme Court. This stance will only fuel more violence in the days to come.

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