As the year 2019 began, January 2 marked the historic day when two women of under 50 years of age entered the controversial Sabarimala temple amid tight police protection. Bindu and Kanakadurga became the two revolutionary women who would be remembered forever for doing what several women aspired for after the Supreme Court judgment. In September 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that women of all ages can enter the inner sanctum of the Lord Ayyappa temple situated in Kerala.
Several women of different ages tried entering the temple since October when the temple’s doors opened for the first time after the apex court judgment. However, despite support from the state authorities, only two women reached a few hundred metres close to the temple. Here’s a list of the gritty women who attempted the Sabarimala trek:
- Reshma Nishanth: Reshma showed interest in going to the temple, but she reportedly received death threats from the protesters. She put up a post on Facebook and it received threatening comments from people who wanted to do atrocious things with her for thinking of going to the temple.
- Mary Sweety: Christian woman from Kazhakkuttom, Mary Sweety, reached Pamba in October with an intention to visit the temple. But the police denied her protection and sent her back.
- SP Manju: Kerala Dalit Mahila Federation President, SP Manju, also reached Pamba with the resolve to enter the temple and reportedly around 100 cops escorted her. Manju dressed traditionally and carried the Irumudi Kettu—devotees who have observed 41 days vratham carry it. The Irumudi Kettu consists of coconut, camphor, jaggery, betel leaves, incense stick, raw rice and flowers. Manju also could not go beyond Pamba.
- Suhasini Raj: On October 18, last year, New York Times journalist Suhasini Raj tried to go to the temple to report the scenario from the top of the mountain where the temple is situated. Raj was accompanied by a friend but she too had to succumb to angry protesters and return without entering the temple.
- Kavitha Jakkal: Another journalist, Kavitha Jakkal, reached the closest to the temple when the temple opened in October along with another woman. She trekked towards the temple amid the protection of hundreds of police members and wore a helmet to safeguard herself from angry protesters who threw bottles on her. But after the temple tantri became angry, she had to come back.
- Rehana Fathima: Human Rights activist Rehana Fathima called up the police and told them that she desires to trek to the temple. She reached Pamba, from where she and Jakkal had over a hundred-policemen-strong force to cover them and marched to the temple. Fathima told SheThePeople.TV, “On the way, the protesters threw a glass bottle on Kavita so the Policemen gave us helmets. But as we reached up just a few meters away from the temple, the Tantri of the Temple said that he will leave the temple if the women entered the inner sanctum.”
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- Anju: In November when the temple opened the gates again for a day, a 30-year-old woman, Anju, came with her husband and two children to the Pamba base camp, but as protesters knew that she was coming, Hindu Aikya Vedi leader Sasikala took the lead in ensuring hat Anju did not enter the shrine.
- Libi CS: Libi CS is the editor of a news website called Newsgil. She faced angry opposition at the Pathanamthitta new bus stand while on her way to Sabarimala temple in Pamba. As soon as she arrived at the Pathanamthitta bus stand, the protesters surrounded her. However, the police too reached swiftly and helped Libi out.
- Madhavi: Andhra Pradesh native Madhavi also tried to enter the Sabarimala temple in October. She went for the trek along with her parents and children and reached till Pamba with police security but she had to return from there as protests against women under 50 increased.
- Bindu Thankam Kalyani: Dalit activist and teacher at the Medical College Campus Higher Secondary School in Kozhikode, Bindu Thankam Kalyani was attacked several times for trying to enter the temple. And even after when she decided to return, protesters blocked her way and she had to go into hiding for days after she returned.
“On the way, the protesters threw a glass bottle on Kavita so the Policemen gave us helmets. But as we reached up just a few meters away from the temple, the Tantri of the Temple said that he will leave the temple if the women entered the inner sanctum,” – Rehana Fathima
- Manithi group: When the temple opened in December, a group of 11 women devotees from Tamil Nadu’s Manithi organisation reached Pamba but the police denied them protection. They demonstrated outside police station for eight hours but had to return when protests increased.
- Ammini: Ammini, who is a Dalit activist from Wayanad, came from Erumely to go to the temple and offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa but she too had to go back because of the staunch protest.
Picture Credit- Live Mint