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Armed mobs attack women journalists near Sabrimala temple

October 18, 2018

Mobs carrying arms and wearing masks attacked women journalists who had gone to cover the protests near the Sabarimala temple in Kerala on Wednesday. Reporters from four media houses were specifically attacked - Republic TV, The News Minute, NDTV, and CNN- News 18.

While the Republic TV reporter Pooja Prasanna was beaten with sticks, Saritha S Balan from The News Minute was kicked on the spine.

Kerala Police have taken over 50 people into custody. They include the former Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan.

Protests have been building up since the Supreme Court ruled that the centuries-old Ayyappa shrine be opened to women between 10 to 50 years. In September, the court ruled that banning menstruating women was "almost like untouchability".

The ban has been practiced for centuries, as devotees consider Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity of the temple, to be celibate.

As the date of opening the temple approached, the protests intensified. Since Tuesday morning, protesters were camping at Nilakkal,. This is the base from where the climb to the hilltop shrine begins. Some protestors are gathered at Pamba, from where the last stretch of the trek begins.

This morning, two women, who were among the first to begin the trek to the hilltop temple, were stopped by protesters on their way.

According to The News Minute, their reporter "was kicked from behind as angry devotees took her photograph, called her derogatory names and chanted slogans in the name of Ayyappa. A woman also tried to throw a water bottle at Saritha."

In a tweet, Republic TV said, "Mob of 100 smash car, attack Republic TV's South India bureau chief Pooja Prasanna". The mob of anti-women Sabarimala protesters had snatched batons from the police and attacked the crew.

In a tweet, India Today said:

We're getting a report that India Today TV crew was attacked by a large mob of around 100 people.

Meanwhile, the National Commission of Women has taken suo-moto cognizance of the assualt on women journalists and has written a letter to the Kerala Police to ensure maximum security for all.

The court's decision has met with divided reactions. While some have welcomed it a progressive, many others, including women, have called it a violation of tradition.

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