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Official from India's ruling BJP calls for protests as women enter Hindu temple

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KOCHI, India (Reuters) - A local official from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party called for protests after two women entered a Hindu temple in the southern state of Kerala on Wednesday, defying a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age entering the shrine.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP)’s Kerala state president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai called it “a conspiracy by the atheist rulers to destroy the Hindu temples,” and said his party will “support the struggles against the destruction of faith by the Communists.”

“Let all the devotees come forward and protest this,” Pillai told local television news channels.

Two women, reported by Reuters partner ANI to be in their 40s, entered the Sabarimala hill temple in India’s southern state of Kerala in the early hours of Wednesday, the state’s chief minister said, raising fears of a backlash from conservative Hindu groups.

India’s Supreme Court in September had ruled that the ban be lifted but Hindu devotees at the temple had defied the court and blocked attempts by women to go to the temple since then. It is unclear how the women managed to get into the temple and avoid devotees who were guarding it.

Reporting by Jose Devasia; Edited by Martin Howell