Amid the rapidly spiralling protests around the Supreme Court verdict lifting age restrictions on women to enter the Sabarimala temple, a woman in Kannur district of Kerala has reported receiving threats on social media after she made public her decision to trek to the hill shrine.
Reshma Nishanth, a 32-year-old teacher, announced on her Facebook profile on Sunday that she has been taking the rigorous 41-day ‘vratam‘ (vow for abstinence) that devotees of Lord Ayyappa usually take before they make the annual pilgrimage to the temple. She began the 41-day vow on October 8, days after the apex court’s landmark verdict. But within hours of her post, Reshma told indianexpress.com that abusive threats against her were circulating on the social media platform. Follow Sabarimala protest LIVE UPDATES
“I haven’t seen the threats on my profile but many of my friends who are active on groups have reported that there are extremely abusive messages against me. I have seen them myself as well. There are people saying that they will not allow me to climb the hill and that if I leave home, I will not return alive,” Reshma, said on phone.
“The messages warn of physical and mental abuse. I don’t know if these are men or women. I haven’t checked their identities yet,” she said, adding that she was on her way to the Kannapuram police station to file a complaint against cyber-harassment.
Reshma, her husband Nishanth Babu, who works at a cooperative bank, and their daughter plan to climb the hill at Sabarimala when the temple opens for the ‘Mandalam’ that runs from mid-November to mid-December. In her Facebook post, the 32-year-old had said that the SC verdict had emboldened her to enter the temple as a devout believer, even though it could be revolutionary in nature.
“If a devotee can do it today, it can prove to be a morale-booster for lakhs of devotees tomorrow. Since I expect questions on menstruation, I see menstrual blood just like blood or urine or fecal matter that must be pushed out of the human body. That’s why I hope to complete the 41-day vratam with complete purity,” she wrote.
Her husband Nishanth said even though he hasn’t taken the vows, he plans to accompany her to the temple next month as he’s aware of the grave dangers involved for women devotees. “I know there will be violent protests. That’s why I am going with her. I don’t want to push her alone towards a violent mob. My family and her family are all supportive for her,” said Nishanth. “I have never asked her to go. The point is if she wants to, she must be able to go,” he added.
The large street protests and prayer marches being taken out on Kerala’s roads were being channelised by political parties for pure political mileage, the bank employee said. “We have come to expect such things from the BJP. But what about the Congress? A party of Nehruvian traditions supporting these protests is suicidal. Democratic forces must fight for equality,” he said.
The sanctum-sanctorum at the Sabarimala temple opens only for the first five days of every Malayalam month as well as throughout the ‘mandalam’ and ‘makaravilakku’ festivals between November and January. On Wednesday evening, it will open for poojas of the Malayalam month of ‘Thulam’. It will remain open from Wednesday to Sunday for devotees to offer prayers. Several right-wing Hindu organisations have proposed agitations and violence at Pampa, the base of the hill, if women between the ages of 10-50 come to enter the temple. The Shiv Sena unit of the state has even warned of ‘mass suicides’ if women offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa.