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Protesters burn Hindu religious center in southern India

FILE - In this Oct. 19, 2018 file photo, Hindu priests and temple staff sit on a protest against a ruling from India's top court to let women of menstruating age enter Sabarimala temple, one of the world's largest Hindu pilgrimage sites, in New Delhi, India. Protesters have set fire to a Hindu religious center in southern India for supporting a Supreme Court decision allowing women of menstruating age at one of the world's largest Hindu pilgrimage sites. (AP Photo,File)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Protesters on Saturday set fire to a Hindu religious center in southern India for supporting a Supreme Court decision allowing women of menstruating age at one of the world’s largest Hindu pilgrimage sites.

Swami Sandeepananda Giri, who runs the center in Kerala state, said some vehicles were also burned by the attackers.

Television stations showed video of the center burning, but it wasn’t immediately clear how much damage was done.

Giri blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu Nationalist party for the attack. The party demands that the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led state government appeal the court’s decision.

The state government says it has arrested about 2,000 people for blocking the entry of women ages 10-50 when the temple opened for prayers for five days. However, courts have freed some 1,500 on bail.

Several groups have filed petitions with the Supreme Court seeking a review of the ruling. They 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. Some Hindu figures consider menstruating women to be impure.

The court has set Nov.13 for taking up review petitions.

The entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 to the centuries-old temple was banned informally for many years, and then by law in 1972. In 1991, the Kerala High Court confirmed the ban until it was struck down by the Supreme Court last month.

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