File photo: Independent Media

New Delhi - At least 3 347 people have been arrested in India since Friday for protesting the entry of women into a Hindu temple in Kerala.

The arrests were made for rioting and unlawful assembly, a spokesman for Kerala Police said Sunday. All but 123 of the 3346 people arrested had been released on bail.

The southern state of Kerala saw violent protests after the Sabarimala Temple opened its doors to women of reproductive age on October 16 following a Supreme Court order that lifted a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age entering the shrine.

In the days that followed, protesters forced female pilgrims to turn back, attacked female journalists and held violent demonstrations in different parts of the state.

A centre run by a spiritual guru who supported the court order was set on fire, and the home of a woman who tried to reach the temple was attacked.

Political parties have added fuel to the fire. India's Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party has accused Kerala's local government - run by a coalition of Communist parties - of ignoring the sentiments of Hindu devotees. The BJP runs India's federal government.

"The Kerala government should stop the brutality in the name of the Supreme Court judgment," BJP chief Amit Shah said at a rally in Kerala on Saturday.

Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Issac said the state government was complying with the law of the land and accused the BJP of using the issue to foment violence for electoral gains.

General elections in India are due by May of next year.

dpa