'My contribution to gender justice,' says woman who entered Sabarimala; Centre seeks report from Kerala govt on violence

Tension is likely to prevail in Kerala on Sunday after the state faced violent protests this week after two women in their 40s on Wednesday entered the Sabarimala temple. The Ministry of Home Affairs has stepped in and sought a report from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's government on the incidents of violence and destruction of public property at various places in Kerala, The Hindu reported.

On Saturday, Governor of Kerala P Sathasivam had sought an urgent report from the chief minister and appealed to all sections of people to maintain peace. He had also briefed Home Minister Rajnath Singh about the law and order situation in Kerala.

A day earlier, the Travancore Devaswom Board had sought an explanation from the Sabarimala tantri (chief priest) Rajeevaru Kandararu for closing the temple for an hour on Wednesday to conduct a "purification ritual" after the two women entered the shrine. He had not asked the board for permission before conducting the ritual. Kandararu has 15 days to respond to the board, The Times of India reported.

 My contribution to gender justice, says woman who entered Sabarimala; Centre seeks report from Kerala govt on violence

Protesters carry a picture of Lord Ayyappa at a demonstration after two women entered the Sabarimala temple in Kochi in southern Kerala. AFP

Violence broke out in Kerala after the women, identified as Bindu Ammini and Kanaka Durga, were declared the first women to have offered prayers at Sabarimala. They made the trek to the hilltop shrine on the intervening night of 1 and 2 January with police protection.

'Going to Sabarimala our constitutional right'

Speaking to NDTV , both Bindu and Kanaka said that even though their decision to visit the shrine was dangerous, it was their constitutional right.

"I knew my life would be in danger, but I still wanted to go into the temple. We are proud that we made it easier for women who want to go to Sabarimala now," Kanaka said. "It's about devotion, but it's also about gender equality."

Bindu said, "We went into the temple because it's our constitutional right.

Earlier, the two women also refuted the allegations of right-wing outfits and the Opposition Congress that they were playing into the hands of the Kerala Police and the government.

"I am not affiliated with any political party or organisation now. I left all that years ago. I was part of the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) Liberation's Central Committee and later resigned owing to differences. I am not part of any organisation now," she said, adding that she was a key speaker at a BJP event on Human Rights Day years ago.

The women also spoke to News18 about the ordeal. Bindu said that her entry into the Lord Ayyappa shrine was her contribution towards gender justice. "I stand with gender equality and this is why I entered the Sabarimala temple. It's my contribution to gender justice. When we attempted to reach the temple for the first time in December, the police advised us to leave. But this time, they fully supported us."

When asked about the violent demonstrations by right-wing groups, she said, "I have no future, I have no fear."

Uncertainty over who was first woman to enter Sabarimala

Kanaka Durga and Bindu are believed to be the first women to enter the shrine and create history, and unconfirmed reports say they were succeeded by a Sri Lankan woman.

However, The Times of India quoted police sources as saying that three Malaysian women of Tamil origin had offered prayers at Sabarimala on 1 January, a day before Bindu and Kanaka were declared the first. According to the report, the Kerala Police said there are unconfirmed reports of "at least four more women below the age of 50 having visited Sabarimala, taking the total to 10".

Wave of protests hits Kerala

After the two women offered prayers at the shrine, protests erupted at several places in Kerala. Hindu right-wing activists blocked highways and forced the closure of shops and markets. BJP and CPM workers also clashed in front of the Secretariat for over five hours, forcing the police to use tear gas and water cannons to disperse them.

A 55-year-old man, who was seriously injured in stone pelting at Pandalam, died late on Wednesday.

After news of the two women entering Sabarimala spread and triggered protests, Hindu groups called for a 12-hour long hartal on Thursday. The hartal was called by the Sabarimala Karma Samithi, an umbrella organisation of various pro-Hindutva groups, spearheading protests against the Supreme Court's 28 September verdict, and the Antarrashtriya Hindu Parishad.

The protests turned political on Friday, with Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) MLA AN Shamseer's home in Kannur being attacked. A few hours later, a crude bomb was hurled at former Kerala BJP president and Rajya Sabha MP V Muralidharan’s ancestral home in Kannur.

Bombs were also hurled at the homes of CPM leader and former Kannur CPM district secretary P Sasi and CPM worker CK Vishak.

Both the CPM and BJP have blamed each other for the attacks on their respective leaders. According to Kerala police chief Loknath Behera, 1,286 cases were registered till Saturday and 3,282 people arrested in connection with the violent incidents since Thursday's hartal. Of the arrested, 487 have been remanded and 2,795 granted bail.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 06, 2019 14:23:03 IST