The Indian Supreme Court on Friday ordered southern Kerala state to provide “round-the-clock” security to two women who enraged conservatives by entering one of Hinduism’s holiest temples earlier this month.
The court had overturned a ban in September on women aged between 10 and 50 from entering the hilltop Sabarimala temple, but the devotees refused to accept the ruling and prevented female worshippers from entering.
News that two women had managed to enter the shrine on January 2 triggered days of violent protest, with one person killed and dozens injured in clashes with police that saw buses torched and bombs hurled.
The women, Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, went in hiding and later approached the top court, claiming their lives were in danger.
“Having heard the lawyers we deem it appropriate to close this petition at this stage by directing Kerala to provide adequate security to both. The security will be provided round the clock,” the court said.
Kanakadurga, who goes by one name, was allegedly attacked by her mother-in-law on Tuesday after returning home and was admitted to a hospital for her injuries.
She had been on the run for days with Ammini, with the pair changing safe houses more than 10 times to avoid being tracked down.
The temple — considered among the holiest in Hinduism and set on top of a hill in a tiger reserve — receives millions of pilgrims a year.
It is dedicated to the celibate deity Ayyappa, and followers believe letting in women of menstruating age goes against his wishes. It is one of the few Hindu temples with restrictions on the entry of women.
The Indian apex court is expected to hear legal challenges to its September order overturning the ban on women entering Sabarimala next week.