Floods, Sabarimala protests rock Kerala in 2018

A deadly monsoon that triggered unprecedented floods in a century, heaping misery on the people, and violent protests over the Supreme Court verdict throwing open the doors of the famous Sabarimala temple to women of all ages made 2018 a nightmarish year for Kerala.

Scripting history, five nuns gathered courage and came out of their convents to launch a 13-day protest demanding justice for their colleague, allegedly raped by a bishop.

The state survived a 'Nipah' scare in May after 17 people died of the deadly virus in northern districts of Kozhikode and Malappuram, but fortunately its spread was contained quickly because of coordinated efforts by the state and central health agencies.

If it was cyclone 'Ockhi' that played havoc last year, nature's fury in the form of unprecedented deluge in August dealt a severe blow to the 'Gods Own Country', known for its lush green landscape, beautiful beaches and backwaters.

Kerala faced the devastating floods and landslides during the South West Monsoon that left 493 people dead and rendered lakhs of others homeless as the overflowing rivers swamped residential areas, drowing people in misery.

Houses crumbled and bridges collapsed as the flood gates of almost all reservoirs in the state had to be opened due to copious rains for days on end, virtually sinking vast swathes of the state.

Just as the state was limping back to normalcy came the Supreme Court's September 28 verdict permitting women of all age groups to offer prayers at the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala, sparking protests that turned violent on several occasions.

The CPI(M)-led LDF government, which during the hearing took a firm stand against the traditional ban on women in 10-50 age group, made it clear that it was constitutionally bound to implement the apex court order.

After devotees took to streets in several parts of the state against the court order, the main opposition Congress and BJP came out against the entry of young women into the shrine, though their national leadership had initially welcomed the verdict.

Right wing outfits also joined the protests by organising 'nama japam' programmes where Lord Ayyappa hymns were chanted in order to protect the unique traditions of the temple whose deity is considered a 'Naishtika Brahmachari' (perennial celibate).