‘Navothana Keralam Sabarimalayilekku’, loosely translated as ‘Renaissance Kerala towards Sabarimala’, a Facebook collective that champions the entry of women of all ages at the hill shrine in Kerala, claimed on Wednesday that 36-year-old Dalit activist Manju offered prayers at the temple on January 8 (Tuesday).
Releasing videos that purportedly showed Manju at the premises of the temple, the collective said she climbed the hill, breaching the traditional gender barriers and offering prayers at around 7:30 am on Tuesday. The young woman participated in all ritual offerings at the Ayyappa temple and the Malikappuram temple before reaching Pamba, the base camp at 10:30 am.
The videos, however, seemed to show Manju’s hair as ‘whitened’ so as to possibly make her look older.
“She has challenged all anti-woman Brahminical traditions. To the chief priest, in your language, it has been 24 hours since the temple has been left impure. Either, perform pujas before the deity that has lost its divinity and apologise to lakhs of devotees or publicly apologise for conducting purification rituals after two young women Bindu and Kanakadurga entered the temple,” the Facebook post, originally in Malayalam, read.
There has been no official confirmation of Manju’s entry at the temple by police officials or employees of the Travancore Devaswom Board.
Manju, who’s the state president of Kerala Dalit Mahila Federation, had attempted to climb the hill in October last year and had managed to reach Pamba, the base camp. But after a meeting with police officials, she had to return keeping in mind the security considerations and the large deployment of right-wing protesters.
On January 2, a day after the government organised the mammoth ‘women’s wall’ for the upliftment of renaissance values, Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, two women in their 40s, created history by entering the temple at dawn escorted by police officials in plain clothes. The entry of the women generated widespread protests and violence, mainly by the RSS-BJP-backed outfits and a heated confrontation with the ruling LDF government.