THE TWO women who entered the Sabarimala temple Wednesday, marking a first after the Supreme Court removed the traditional age-linked gender bar last September, were under police protection since their first bid to enter the shrine nine days ago was blocked by protesters, one of their family members told The Indian Express.
But early Wednesday, the two women did not face any opposition from devotees inside the shrine, although their move later triggered protests and calls for a hartal by BJP-backed Hindu organisations and criticism from the Congress in the Left-ruled state.
Eases pressure on state govt, fresh ammo for Opp
The ENTRY in Sabarimala of two women in their 40s, the first time since the Supreme Court order three months ago, eases political pressure on the Left Front government in Kerala. For, it had vowed to implement the order but was stalled by protests. With the Lok Sabha polls just months away, this also gives fresh ammunition to the Congress and BJP, which will hope to capitalise on the anger among a wide section of society that has come out in support of the temple’s traditions. How the state government handles this will be key.
Temple authorities confirmed that A Bindu (40) and Kanakadurga (42) entered the shrine around 3.45 am through a passage meant for staff and were escorted by policemen dressed in black, which is the customary colour of clothing for devotees.
Bindu is a former member of the CPI (ML) and an associate professor on contract with Kannur University’s School of Legal Studies. She lives with her husband, who is also a former CPI (ML) member, and their school-going daughter in Koyilandy in Kozhikode district.
Kanakadurga is employed as the manager of an outlet of the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation in neighbouring Malappuram district. She lives with her husband, who is a state government employee, and two school-going sons.
On December 24, both had tried to enter the hill shrine but were blocked by protesters. “This time, we sought police protection after reaching the base station in Pamba around 1.30 am,” Bindu said.
“While trekking from Pamba, a few devotees recognised us but we did not face any protests. We did not climb the 18 sacred steps to reach the sanctum, but were taken inside through another path,” she said.Temple authorities later shut the temple for an hour to conduct a “purification” ritual.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Kanakadurga’s brother Bharath said the family has traditionally been CPM supporters. “She has not returned home since December 24, and we had even filed a police complaint. Officers in Malappuram told us that she was under police protection at an undisclosed location. She later posted a video on Facebook, saying she was safe,” he said.
Bharath, however, claimed that Kanakadurga’s move to enter the shrine did not have the support of relatives. “We wanted to see the tradition of Sabarimala protected. We were against her visit to the temple,’’ he said.
Bindu holds a post-graduate degree in Law and had practiced as an advocate at the local court in Koyilandy. She joined the faculty at Kannur University last year.
Shruthi Dasan, a colleague, said they were not aware of Bindu’s bid. “Before her first attempt on December 24, she did not tell us about her plan. After she returned that day, I tried to call her but was unable to reach her. Since then, she has not come to the campus,’’ Dasan said.
On Wednesday, official sources said, both the women were taken to an undisclosed location by police amid fear of attacks by protesters — police were also deployed at their homes.
Police sources told The Indian Express that the two women wanted to visit the temple during the ongoing second leg of the annual festival after their aborted bid. “They were bold enough to face any situation. Both were shifted to a safe location and given today’s date for ‘darshan’. Police escorted them from where they were lodged to the temple without much hype,” sources said.
When contacted, M V Jayarajan, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s private secretary, denied that the state government was involved in planning the women’s entry.
“It’s not an issue of whether these women were under police protection or not. They are adults and we can’t keep them away from their families. Their action was according to the order of the Supreme Court. And they did not face any protests because they had gone early in the morning,” he said.