Category Archives: India

Millions await their fate as India plans to publish citizens list

CitizenshipHalimun Nessa stands with her children and displays a photograph of her husband Rahim Ali, who committed suicide [Anupam Nath/AP Photo]

On the day before his five children were due to appear in front of a tribunal in India’s northeast state of Assam to prove they were genuine citizens, Rahim Ali hanged himself outside their corrugated metal shack in the village of Banti Pur in Barpeta district, his wife said.

He was worried the children would be excluded from a government citizens list set to be published on Saturday, said Halimun Nessa, standing over Ali’s fresh grave. He had feared they would be sent to a detention camp.

“He was saying we don’t have any money to fight this case,” Nessa, 32, told Associated Press. “He was thinking that his children will be taken away. He went to the market, came back and did this,” said Nessa, adding that she does not know what she will do if her children’s names do not appear on the National Register of Citizens, or NRC.

The Supreme Court-monitored NRC process started in 2015 and a draft NRC list was published last year that excluded more than four million of Assam’s 32 million people.

Critics fear the final NRC list will leave off millions of people, rendering them stateless. And the Hindu nationalist-led government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which fully backs the citizenship project in Assam, promises to roll out a similar plan nationwide.

The government has assured that people left out from the final list will be given an opportunity to prove their citizenship. But the people who are anxiously waiting for the lsit to be released, are worried.

Habibur Rahman and his wife Aklima Khatun along with their sons Nur Alam and Faridul Alam were among the four million left out of last year’s draft list. Their two daughters, Samira Begum, 14, and Shahida Khatun, 11, however, were able to make it onto the list.

They have submitted documents again as part of the appeal process.

“I was never worried like this. This is the biggest test of my life. If our names are not featured in the final list, what do we do?” a concerned Rahman told Al Jazeera from Goroimari village in Kamrup district – over 66 kilometres from the state capital Guwahati.

Those suspected of being in the country without documents must prove their citizenship under what is seen as a messy, overly-bureaucratic system.

A section of people, mostly Muslims, complained of harassment from NRC officials as they were summoned at short notice and made to travel up to 400-500km from their homes for hearings.

“We did everything we were asked to do to prove we are Indians. We felt like it was the end of our world,” Bahatan Khanam, 35, said.

Those suspected of being in the country without documents must prove their citizenship under what is seen as a messy, overly-bureaucratic system.

A section of people, mostly Muslims, complained of harassment from NRC officials as they were summoned at short notice and made to travel up to 400-500km from their homes for hearings.

“We did everything we were asked to do to prove we are Indians. We felt like it was the end of our world,” Bahatan Khanam, 35, said.

Khanam from remote Dakhin Godhani village in Barpeta received the notice on August 5 and she was asked to attend the hearing on August 6 in Golaghat district, which is located some 400km away.

“Now, I just hope that my name appears in the list. That’s the ultimate dream anyone can have. We have been long waiting for this day. If the name appears, I hope to lead a dignified life as an Indian and if it doesn’t the struggle will continue,” Khanam told Al Jazeera.

Critics view the NRC process as an attempt to deport millions of minority Muslims, many of whom have entered India from neighbouring Bangladesh.

People like Rahman are worried. “I have submitted all the documents that were necessary. We have land papers in our father’s name that dated back to 1948. What else do we need to prove our citizenship?” asked Rahman.

India’s government sought to ease concerns ahead of the imminent “citizens register”.

“DO NOT BELIEVE RUMOURS ABOUT NRC,” a spokesperson for the Indian home ministry tweeted in capital letters.

Tens of thousands of paramilitary personnel and police have been deployed ahead of the publication of the citizens list.

Police said 60,000 state police and 19,000 paramilitary personnel will be on duty on Saturday, according to Reuters.

“All precautionary measures have been taken with security forces deployed in strength,” said Assam police chief Kuladhar Saikia.

But those who have been leading the fight for such a list say the project is meant to protect the cultural identity of Assam’s indigenous people, no matter what their faith is.

Those excluded are presumed to be foreigners unless they can prove otherwise at one of the hundreds of quasi-judicial bodies known as Foreign Tribunals presided over by people who are not judges.

They have 120 days to file appeals with the tribunals and can take their case to higher courts. If no appeal is filed, a district magistrate makes a referral to the tribunal to strip them of their citizenship.

It is unclear what will happen to those ultimately branded as foreigners because India has no treaty with Bangladesh to deport them.

Earlier this summer, India’s Supreme Court criticised the central government and that of Assam state, saying thousands of people who had been declared foreigners over the years had disappeared. About 1,000 others are being held in six detention centres located inside existing prisons.

For hundreds of years, the verdant, hilly state of Assam has drawn workers from neighbouring Bangladesh to its enormous colonial-era tea plantations.

But resentment of these immigrants runs deep. In 1983, a mob in Assam massacred more than 2,000 Bengali-origin Muslims. No one was ever prosecuted.

Modi’s home minister, Amit Shah, has called undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh “infiltrators” and “termites”.

Millions of people whose citizenship status is now unclear were born in India to parents also born in India. The year 1948 was decreed to be the official cutoff date for refugees from Pakistan, including East Pakistan – now Bangladesh. The date was later updated to 1951 when the first NRC was prepared.

According to a 1985 deal signed between the central government and Assam politicians running a campaign against undocumented immigrants, March 24, 1971, was set as the final cutoff date to be eligible to be granted Indian citizenship.

Hundreds of people with voting rights of diverse lineage, including Hindus and Assamese, have been arrested and held on suspicion of being undocumented migrants.

“I am very shocked that I served 30 years to the nation, now I am a beggar for citizenship,” said Army veteran Mohammad Sanaullah, who lives in Guwahati.

Shah, the home minister, has promised to expand Assam’s registry nationwide, using mandatory identification cards.

At the same time, Modi and Shah are pushing to amend citizenship law to grant citizenship to Bengali-origin Hindus who do not make it to the list.

The registry comes less than a month after the Modi government unilaterally stripped Indian-administered Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state, of special constitutional protections that gave it political autonomy and exclusive land rights.

A team of United Nations experts, including the special rapporteur for freedom of religion or belief, said in July that the NRC could “exacerbate the xenophobic climate while fueling religious intolerance and discrimination in the country.”

Samujjal Bhattacharya, who has been part of a movement in Guwahati against undocumented immigrants for decades, said the idea that Muslims are being targeted is propaganda pushed by a pro-Bangladeshi conspiracy.

“They are propagating that human rights is violated here. We’d like to ask them, ‘who is violating human rights?’ In our own motherland, our rights are being violated by the illegal Bangladeshis.”

In 2010, the government selected Barpeta, one of Assam’s nine Muslim-majority districts, for a pilot NRC programme as part of a plan to verify voter rolls.

When protests erupted about the programme in the bucolic village of Khandakar Para, police gunfire killed four demonstrators, including 25-year-old Maidul Mullah. He is buried behind a mosque that dates to 1916, and his gravestone honours him for “sacrificing his life on streets of Barpeta for the cause of NRC”.

Another slain protester was Majam Ali, 55. His widow, Noor Begum, is illiterate, but a neighbour helped her submit documents dating back more than a half-century, including her grandfather’s listing on the original 1951 NRC and tax details, to no avail.

“My husband shed his blood for the NRC,” she said, “Everyone who should be on the list should be on it. Then only will (his) death be worth it.”

Manjuri Bhowmik, a 51-year-old Hindu, dreads what it will mean for her two sons if she is declared a foreigner.

Originally from the state of West Bengal, Bhowmik said she had lived in Assam since moving there to marry her husband in 1991. She recently received notice that she was a suspected “D-voter”, or “doubtful voter”, placing her status and that of her children at risk.

Despite submitting copies of ID cards, her degree from Calcutta University and a deposition from her brother, she sat outside a foreigner tribunal in Barpeta waiting for her chance to prove her citizenship.

“People are being harassed,” she said. “This causes great mental stress.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/millions-await-fate-india-plans-publish-citizens-list-190830091610747.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amid efforts to rebuild, residents of Karala face another round of floods

flood
Flooding along the Ganges River Aug 21, 2019. Credit: Sanjay Kanojia / AFP / Getty Images.

.- Just a year after devastating floods swept through Kerala, India, the state is again facing devastating flooding.

Indian officials said that heavy rains this month have resulted in landslides and flash floods. According to ucanews, 100 people in Kerala have been killed and 1,115 homes have been destroyed.

According to the Indian Express, over 150,000 people have been relocated to one of the 1,221 relief camps in Kerala.

Father George Vettikattil, secretary of the Justice, Peace and Development Commission of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, said 300 church institutions are being used as relief camps for about 45,000 people. Like last year, he said, Catholic fishing communities are also using their boats for rescue missions.

“We have opened all our institutions to accommodate needy people in temporary and safe accommodation,” he told Vatican News.

Vettikattill told ucanews that “the destruction is less than last year.” In 2018, the monsoon season was the worst Kerala had seen in nearly a century. The natural disaster took over 400 lives and damaged 75,000 homes.

Families are still working to rebuild after last year’s floods.

Vettikattill said many people have offered money and volunteer work to help rebuilt the community. Caritas India alone has carried out $4 million worth of rebuilding efforts, including a loan program to help families buy goats, which can then be used to sell milk. In three years, the families are expected to repay the diocese with a baby lamb.

The loans help, but they are not enough, according to Kunjumol and Velayudhan, one couple participating in the program. They said the income from the goat’s milk will not be enough to rebuild their damaged home. They believe the government must do more to assist.

“The government has almost abandoned us,” he said, according to ucanews. “Some officials came and asked us questions but we got none of the benefits the government promised in the media.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/amid-efforts-to-rebuild-residents-of-karala-face-another-round-of-floods-53016

Conflict drives global rise in sexual violence against women

Attack A woman rests at a camp for people fleeing conflict in the Congolese province of Kasai. Photograph: John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images

Sexual violence is on the increase both inside and outside of wartime contexts and women remain the primary victims, warns new research.

In their report, researchers from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (Acled) analysed data gathered from 400 recorded sexual violence events that occurred between January 2018 and June 2019.

They found an overall increase in reported events where the offender directly targeted women and girls; in only 5% of cases were the victims male.

At 140, the total number of reported events nearly doubled in the first three months of 2019 compared with the same period in 2018.

The report’s authors said this was “largely due to an upward trend in violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which consistently registers high levels of reported sexual violence”.

Dr Roudabeh Kishi, director of research at Acled, said: “It is important to remember that sexual violence in or outside of conflict remains a pressing issue for victims, regardless of gender or age.”

Identifying that the primary perpetrators of public, political sexual attacks were regional political militias followed by state forces, Acled compared statistics for 2018 and 2019 in order to identify high-risk regions where women are more vulnerable to attack.

In 2018, the Democratic Republic of the Congo topped the list followed by South Sudan, Burundi, India and Sudan. By 2019, the list had changed, with India rising to second place behind the DRC. South Sudan and Burundi followed, with Mozambique and Zimbabwe in equal fifth position.

In both years, researchers found that events were often accompanied by lethal attacks, especially during armed conflict.

Breaking down the data into regions, Acled found that the largest proportion of reported events were committed by political militias, anonymous or unidentified armed groups in Africa and south Asia. In the Middle East, south-east Asia, eastern and south-eastern Europe and the Balkans, events were carried out by state forces.

In the same time period, more than 100 government-perpetrated sexual violence events were recorded, which accounted for more than a quarter of all incidents that occurred or were most common in India, the DRC, Myanmar, South Sudan, Burundi, and Sudan.

There are no comprehensive statistics for the number of women and men subjected to sexual violence during conflict, but the figures are believed to be in the thousands

According to Acled, women are frequently targeted during political violence, which makes up only one-third of all events involving violence targeting women and extends beyond sexual violence, where they say that levels of organised violence are high.

However, even where they identified that organised violence was not the primary objective, women often still face high levels of targeting outside of conventional conflict: for example, attempts by a state to enforce order through repression, or a mob targeting a woman accused of indecency. Such instances have arisen in Burundi and Pakistan, which provide indicative case studies.

“On the heels of commemorating the international day for the elimination of sexual violence in conflict, we need the support of states to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Kishi.

“It is damning to find that some states are among the primary perpetrators of such violence themselves. Impunity plays a troubling role in the continuation of such violence.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/jun/28/congo-abuses-drive-global-rise-in-sexual-violence-against-women

India: six guilty of child rape and murder that outraged nation

IndiaA bus carrying the accused arrives at court in Pathankot, Jammu and Kashmir state, on Monday. Photograph: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images

An Indian court has convicted six men of involvement in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state last year, in a case that sparked outrage and criticism of the country’s ruling party after some of its members opposed charges being laid.

The girl, from a nomadic Muslim community that roams the forests of Kashmir, was drugged, held captive in a temple and sexually assaulted for a week before being strangled and battered to death with a stone in January 2018.

The abduction, rape and killing of the child was part of a plan to remove the minority nomadic community from the area, the 15-page charge sheet said.

Among those accused were a Hindu priest and police officers, raising communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims in the area.

“This is a victory of truth,” the prosecution lawyer M Farooqi said outside the court. “The girl and her family have got justice today. We are satisfied with the judgment.”

The prosecution was seeking the death penalty for three men – the priest Sanji Ram, Deepak Khajuria and Parvesh Kumar – who were convicted of rape and murder, he said.

Three others, Surinder Kumar, Tilak Raj and Anand Dutta, were convicted of lesser crimes of destroying evidence.

AK Sawhney, a lawyer leading the legal team representing the accused, said they planned to appeal against the verdict.

The trial, held in private, began more than a year ago in Pathankot, a town about 45 miles from Rasana village in Kathua district, where the incident happened.

The supreme court shifted the trial to the neighbouring state of Punjab after the girl’s family and lawyer said they faced death threats, and local lawyers and Hindu politicians, including some from the ruling Bharatiya Janata party, held protests against police filing charges.

India has long been plagued by violence against women and children. Reported rapes climbed 60% to 40,000 from 2012 to 2016, according to government statistics, and many more go unreported, especially in rural areas.

Eight people are accused of involvement in the case. The seventh man, named as Vishal, was found not guilty on Monday, Farooqi said, while the eighth, a juvenile, is awaiting trial.

The Indian village where child sexual exploitation is the norm

women photoIndian advocacy group Jan Sahas believes there are an estimated 100,000 women and girls in caste and gender slavery. Photograph: Rebecca Conway

By Michael Safi

Many families in India still mourn the birth of a girl. But   when Leena was born, people celebrated.

Sagar Gram, her village in central India, is unique that way. Girls outnumber boys. When a woman marries, it is the groom’s family that pays the dowry. Women are Sagar Gram’s breadwinners. When they are deemed old enough, perhaps at the age of 11, most are expected to start doing sex work.

India officially abolished caste discrimination almost 70 years ago. But millennia of tradition is not easily erased. For most Indians, caste still has a defining influence on who they marry and what they eat. It also traps millions in abusive work. The exploited and trafficked children of Sagar
Gram, and dozens of other villages across India’s hinterland, are one of its most disturbing manifestations.

“It is caste and gender slavery,” says Ashif Shaikh of Jan Sahas, an advocacy group that works with members of India’s lowest castes, communities that used to be called “untouchables”.

“We estimate there are 100,000 women and girls in this situation. But there are likely more we haven’t identified. It’s an invisible issue.”

Girls in Sagar Gram grow up hearing a story. Sometime in the misty past of Hindu myth, a king fell in love with a dancer. His enraged queen issued the woman with a challenge: if she could walk a tightrope across a river, she could join the royal family, and permanently raise the status of her caste.

As the woman neared the opposite bank of the river, a step from success, the queen suddenly cut the rope. “Up until now, we lured your men through dancing,” the woman told the queen. “From now on, we will take your men from you with our bodies.”

Leena, 22, remembers learning about the woman. She remembers the awe she felt when the older girls from her caste, the Bacchara, suddenly had enough money for makeup and nice clothing. She remembers what the adults in her village told her when she was 15, and her family was having money problems.

“Your parents are going through such a hard time,” they told her. “How can you go to school? You need to be working.”

That was when she started. “The rest of the girls in my village were doing it, so I felt like I had to do it as well,” she says. “It was my responsibility.”

Girls in Sagar Gram, which lies next to a highway, are groomed for this life virtually from birth. Parents decide which of their daughters will fetch the best price. Older girls teach them how to attract customers from passing trucks and cars. The younger ones sometimes stow under beds, observing the others at work.

Sex was nonetheless a mystery to Leena. “When I was young, the most important thing was seeing the money the customer was offering,” she says. “I didn’t understand what they were doing to me. I only saw that money was coming in.”

Her virginity was prized. She made 5,000 rupees (£55) on the first night. Her price declined after that. Another Bacchara woman, aged 29, says the most she can make for an encounter is 200 rupees. She might see five or six men in a day.

India’s preference for male children has created a deep gender imbalance. Among the Baccharas of Sagar Gram village, however, the problem cuts the other way: there are 3,595 women in the district compared with 2,770 men, according to the most recent census.

Yet, visiting the village at dusk, few women or girls can be seen. “They’ve all gone to hotels or to stop cars,” an older man says, gesturing at the nearby highway. Every few hundred metres along the road, girls are reclined on rope beds, waving at any vehicle that slows.

The legal age of consent in India is 18. Madhya Pradesh, the state in which Sagar Gram is situated, recently passed the death penalty for anyone who rapes a child under 12, also increasing jail terms for adults who have sex with someone under 18. Police say seven people were arrested for child
sexual exploitation offences in Sagar Gram in the past year, five of them women who sold their underage daughters. The law is clear, but does little to sway social custom and economic distress.

“It’s a traditional business,” says deputy superintendent Nagendra Singh Sikarwar, at the nearby Jeeran police station. “Even girls we try to rehabilitate come back to it. The main issue is we don’t have alternative jobs for them. And so their families are keen that they continue the work.”

Most Bacchara men do not work. Only the lowest paid or most degrading jobs are available to them anyway. So they rely on their children. They wait on their porches with the rest of the family while their daughters are inside with customers.

One villager, Balram Chauhan, should be a rich man. He has five daughters. But he is struggling: Chauhan, 52, is the only father in the village who refuses to force his children into sex work.

“To be exposed to such violence and mental and physical abuse,” he mutters. “How could any parent willingly send them off?”

His mother was a prostitute. Despite his efforts, so were four of his sisters. “From the moment I understood what they were doing I tried to stop them,” he says. “But my parents were against me. They said it was a culture that had been going on for years. Who was I to stop it?”

Trying to break this cycle has been a lifelong struggle. His parents sabotaged his efforts to train as a health worker, Chauhan says. When he married off his two daughters to spare them from a life of prostitution, his family cut him off.

He cannot move his family outside of a Bacchara village: nobody would rent property to someone from his caste. The “higher” caste communities nearby consider his very presence polluting. So he has opened a small shop in Sagar Gram selling biscuits and confectionery, trying to eke out enough to pay for his daughters’ education.

“A lot of people here bad-mouth my daughters,” he says. “If they see them speaking on a cellphone, 10 people come to my shop and tell me: ‘Your daughter is chatting to so-and-so.’ They try to say they have loose characters.

“If I had one daughter, I could handle it. But when there are five …” he trails off. “It’s a difficult thing.”

https://www.theguardian.com/global- development/2019/jan/14/indian-village-where-child-sexual- exploitation-is-the-norm-sagar-gram-jan-sahas

India’s lower house passes citizenship bill that excludes Muslims

Legislators approve bill that will grant citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants amid protests in northeastern Assam.

indian photoProtesters set fire to effigies of the prime minister and vandalised two BJP offices [Biju Boro/ AFP]

India’s lower house of parliament has approved a bill that would grant residency and citizenship rights to non-Muslim immigrants, sparking protests that brought the country’s populous northeast to a near standstill.

The legislation, which still needs the approval of the upper house, seeks to grant rights to Hindus, Jains, Parsis and several other non-Muslim religious groups who migrated illegally from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“They have no place to go except India,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh told parliament on Tuesday. “The beneficiaries of the bill can reside in any state of the country.”

Critics have called the proposal, contained in the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, blatantly anti-Muslim and an attempt by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to boost its Hindu voter base ahead of a general election due by May.

The bill sparked a second day of protests in the northeastern state of Assam, where nearly 4 million people, accused of being foreigners, were effectively stripped of their citizenship last year.

Protesters there are angry not because the bill excludes Muslims, but because it would grant citizenship to undocumented Hindus who failed to prove their citizenship and hence were excluded from the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) published last July.

The final NRC list is due to be published on June 30.

suhas Chakma, director of the New Delhi-based Rights and Risks Analysis Group, said the citizenship bill was “absolutely unconstitutional as it targets specific groups”.

The bill is unlikely to pass the upper house of parliament, he told Al Jazeera, because the chamber is not controlled by the ruling party.

“This is going to backfire on the BJP,” he said, pointing to the anger in Assam.

Protests in Assam

In Tuesday’s protest, demonstrators set up blockades with burning tyres and vandalised two BJP offices, disrupting traffic and business from early in the morning to late afternoon.

They also burned effigies of the prime minister.

Mukesh Agarwal, Assam police spokesperson, said more than 700 demonstrators were arrested. Police used tear gas to disperse the crowds.

Samujjal Bhattacharya, leader of the All Assam Students Union, said that providing residency and citizenship rights to undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh, with which Assam state shares a long border, would threaten indigenous communities.

“Already, we have a whole lot of Muslim migrants from Bangladesh who entered Assam illegally over the years. Now, the government is trying to make a law seeking to confer citizenship to Hindus from Bangladesh. We want all illegal migrants to be detected and deported, irrespective of their religion,” Bhattacharya said.

The issue of immigration from Bangladesh has spurred periodic public uprisings in Assam since the Indian government granted rights to Bangladeshis who entered the country before 1971 – the year Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan.

BJP’s alliance partner in Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad or Assam People’s Party, quit the coalition government on Tuesday in protest against the new bill.

“We have always opposed the entry and presence of illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Our party was formed in 1985 with this promise of freeing Assam from illegal migrants from Bangladesh,” AGP president Atul Bora said.

“We, therefore, cannot remain an ally of the BJP after this move by the Modi government.”
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/01/india-house-passes-citizenship-bill-excludes-muslims-190108145755215.html

Two Indian women enter Sabarimala temple in Kerala amid protests

India photo
The temple was briefly shut down for a ‘purification ritual’  following the announcement of the women entering [File: Sivaram V/Reuters]

by Zeenat Saberin

New Delhi, India – Two women in India’s southern Kerala state
have breached a centuries-old ban on entering an ancient Hindu
temple, despite strong protests by right-wing conservative
groups.

Bindu and Kanakadurga, who were in their forties, walked into
the Sabarimala Temple at 3:45am on Wednesday, according to the
ANI news agency.

The temple had been closed off to women of menstruating age
until India’s Supreme Court overturned the ban in September.
However, opponents of the ruling continued to block women
between the ages of 10 and 50 from entering the shrine.

“Today, two women entered Sabarimala Temple. We had issued
standing orders to police to provide all possible protection
to any woman who wants to enter the temple,” Chief Minister
Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters in Kerala’s capital city,
Trivandrum.

A video posted online by ANI showed the two women, clothed in
black, hurriedly walking into the temple. They offered prayers
there, ANI said.

The temple was briefly shut down following the move for a
“purification ritual” by priests.

According to the Sabarimala temple’s website, women of
menstruating age were not allowed to enter the shrine because
its deity, Lord Ayyappa, was celibate.

Since the top court’s verdict, Hindu hardliners, opposed to
the decision, have attacked female pilgrims, threatened
journalists and pelted police with stones.

On Tuesday, tens of thousands of women in Kerala formed a 620
-km human chain “in support of gender equality” from Kasargod
in the north to the capital, Trivandrum.

Manithi Selvi, who attempted to enter Sabarimala last month
but had to back down after being hounded by violent
protesters, hailed the two women’s entry to Sabarimala as a
“brave feat”.

“This is a massive victory for the women of India. These two
women have protected India’s constitutional rights and smashed
the walls of patriarchy. But this is only the first step, we
need to guard our rights in the family, in the home, in the
workplace,” Selvi told Al Jazeera.

“Those who have tried to purify the temple today after the
women entered are standing against the constitution of this
country. We have to reject these ideas,” she added.

Bindu, one of the women who entered the temple on Wednesday,
was threatened by right-wing protesters earlier and her house
was vandalised, according to Selvi.

Conservative Hindu groups said they will continue to oppose
women entering the temple.

“The temple has now been closed for cleaning ritual following
this incident where the women forcefully entered the temple.
We will definitely go back to the top court to fight this
battle out. It’s not over yet and we will win,” Rahul Easwar,
president of the Ayyappa Dharma Sena (Ayyappa Religious Army),
that claims to protect the interests of the Lord Ayyappa told
Al Jazeera.

KK Shailaja, minister for social justice in Kerala, said her
government stands for “gender equality”. She had also
participated in the “women’s human wall” on Tuesday.

“We are upholding the top court orders and our government here
will continue to strongly back all women. We stand for gender
equality. Those saying that women are impure should be ashamed
of themselves. How can they say women are impure in front of
God?” Shailaja said.

“There is no logical reason to stop women from entering any
temple,” she said.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has backed
the anti-women protesters despite the court order, in what
critics say is a move to fan Hindu religious sentiment to make
inroads into the region.

Menstruation is rarely discussed openly in India and menstrual
blood is considered impure by many communities.

Across cities and towns, menstruating girls and women are not
allowed to prepare food, enter a temple or touch an idol.

An estimated one million Hindu pilgrims travel to the
Sabarimala temple in the southern state of Kerala annually.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS