Sabarimala row: Mother-in-law's attack on Kanaka Durga shows how orthodoxy is still ingrained among Kerala Hindus

  • Kanaka Durga, who returned to her husband’s house at Angadipuram in Malappuram district on Tuesday (15 January), was reportedly hit on her head by her mother-in-law.

  • According to Perinthalmanna police, the 42-year-old woman is undergoing treatment at Perinthalmanna district hospital for the injury she has suffered in the attack.

  • Social reformer and spiritual leader Swami Agnivesh described the entry of the two women in the temple as an act of exemplary bravery against the obscurantist, discriminative custom imposed on Sabarimala by Brahmanical patriarchy.

  • Meanwhile, her mother-in-law has also got admitted to the same hospital alleging that she was attacked by Kanaka Durga.

  • Bharath Bhushan alleged that police officer did not respond to the repeated pleas of her relatives to reveal the location where Kanaka Durga was kept under custody.

When Bindu Ammini and Kanaka Durga announced their decision to attend the Aarppo Arthavam, an event celebrating menstruation, at Kochi last week, many expected the right-wing activists to mob the venue and unleash their ire on the duo for defying the ban on menstruating women from entering the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple.

 Sabarimala row: Mother-in-laws attack on Kanaka Durga shows how orthodoxy is still ingrained among Kerala Hindus

Kanaka Durga (left) and Bindu Ammini. Reuters

The organisers were surprised to see that the activists who had unleashed a reign of terror after the two made history by becoming the first women to enter the temple after Supreme Court lifted the ban on 28 September made no effort to even stage a protest outside the venue.

Emboldened by this, the two who had gone into hiding since entering the temple on 2 January returned home. While Bindu was given a warm welcome at her home and at her workplace, Kanaka Durga was greeted by angry family members. Kanaka Durga, who returned to her husband’s house at Angadipuram in Malappuram district on Tuesday (15 January), was reportedly hit on her head by her mother-in-law.

According to Perinthalmanna police, the 42-year-old woman is undergoing treatment at Perinthalmanna district hospital for the injury she has suffered in the attack. Sources in the police station said that they have registered a case under section 341 and 324 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) on a complaint lodged by Kanaka Durga and the investigation was going on.

Meanwhile, her mother-in-law has also got admitted to the same hospital alleging that she was attacked by Kanaka Durga. She alleged that Kanaka Durga had attacked her when she asked her not to enter the house. However, police said they had not received any report from the hospital authorities in this connection.

Kanaka Durga was not immediately available for comments. She was quoted by Manorama News channel as saying that she was beaten with a wooden rod by her mother-in-law when she went to her husband’s house in the morning. She said that she had pain all over her body.

However, Bindu who was with Kanaka Durga at an undisclosed destination for the last two weeks said the incident was not serious. “I could not talk to Kanaka Durga after the incident. However, I have learnt from her friends that the attack was a natural reaction. The orthodox family has not been able to come to terms with her action of breaking the temple’s customs and rituals,” Bindu said.

Family members of not only Kanaka Durga’s husband but also her own family were against her decision to go to Sabarimala. She left her husband’s home in the second week of December saying she was going to Thiruvananthapuram to attend a meeting. When she did not return after a few days, her husband filed a missing person complaint.

The family was shocked when media flashed reports about her attempt to visit the hill shrine on 24 December along with Bindu. The two, who came within 500 metres of the temple, were forced by the police to turn back following protests. They reluctantly returned after police promised to help them enter the temple later.

Kanaka Durga’s brother Bharat Bhushan had alleged conspiracy by the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Kottayam Superintendent of Police Harinshakar in taking his sister to Sabarimala. Bhushan told the Times of India that Kanaka Durga had been kept at a hideout in Kannur for one week after the failed attempt and police had not allowed the family even to contact her.

Bharath Bhushan alleged that police officer did not respond to the repeated pleas of her relatives to reveal the location where she was kept under custody. He had expressed suspicion that she was kept under the protection of CPM workers somewhere in Kannur, with the support of police.

Family of Kanaka Durga is a traditional CPM supporter and they are also active workers of Nair Service Society (NSS). Bharath Bhushan said that the entire family and relatives of Kanaka Durga are unhappy over the latest developments and they are against violation of the rituals.

Kanaka Durga, a commerce graduate, is a strong CPM supporter. She is associated with Purogamana Kala Sahithya Sangham (PuKaSa) and a member of Valluvanad Samskarika Vedi based in Angadippuram. She has written many articles in magazines and weeklies under the pen name Durga Areekode and Durga Angadippuram. She is currently working as assistant manager of Civil Supplies Corporation outlet at Anamangad near Perinthalmanna.

Bindu and Kanaka Durga made the bold attempt to enter the temple after about a dozen women beat a retreat following protests by right-wing activists, including BJP and RSS workers. Before them all the women who reached the base station at Pampa were blocked by thousands of protestors and their houses were attacked. Many were also blocked on the way. Trupti Desai, a gender equality campaigner who came from Mumbai, was not even allowed to step outside the Kochi airport.

The two had expected attack from the protestors when they come out of the hiding. Bindu, who returned to her home on 14 January, said she was surprised that none of the protestors had tried to trouble her after she reached home. On the contrary, she was hailed by people in her neighbourhood and workplace.

Bindu, who is working as assistant professor in the legal studies department of Kannur University, said the she had gone to her office by foot and none had raised any protest against her on her way. “My fellow teachers and students in the office showered me with praises,” she said.

Activists had hailed the two women for the courage they displayed in defying the protestors. Social reformer and spiritual leader Swami Agnivesh described the entry of the two women in the temple as an act of exemplary bravery against the obscurantist, discriminative custom imposed on Sabarimala by Brahmanical patriarchy.

He alleged that the resistance against the entry of women was spearheaded by the BJP and the Sangh Parivar for their political gains. Swami Agnivesh said that the BJP campaign is part of a desperate attempt by the RSS and the BJP to infiltrate into Kerala to compensate for the huge erosion in their popularity in North India.

“Kerala is paying the price for Modi’s lust for power and the maniacal desire to hang on. I have good reasons to believe that the Sangh Parivar will meet it with its Waterloo in ‘God’s own Country‘. Ironically, the slap on its face will be dealt not by a decorated military leader, but the discriminated-against women of Kerala, who have gained for themselves a voice and a mission that their counterparts in India need to emulate,” Swami Agnivesh said.

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Updated Date: Jan 16, 2019 08:21:42 IST