THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Kerala —Forty two-year-old law professor Bindu Ammini, a law professor, and 44-year-old Kanakadurga, assistant manager of a state-run grocery store, first met online in October last year, on a Facebook page created by a mutual friend, to discuss the impact of the Supreme Court judgement allowing women of all ages into the Sabarimala shrine.
In the early hours of January 2 this year, the two women entered the shrine under heavy police protection, prompting a violent backlash from those opposed to allowing women “of menstrual age” entry into the shrine. The two women have since been moved to a police safe-house over fears for their safety.
The women, and the police party tasked with escorting them from the shrine to their hideout, had to navigate violent attacks from angry male protestors — particularly at the base camp at Pampa and several junctions en-route.
Ammini and Kanakadurga’s quest to enter the temple, reveals that a wide cross section of Kerala women are determined to enter the shrine, not just an insular elite, as suggested by their detractors. As a conservative backlash across Kerala sought to silence women who wanted to visit Sabrimala, they turned online to find each other.
Ammini and Kanakadurga first connected on a Facebook page titled Navothana Keralam Sabarimalayilekku , roughly translated as When Kerala’s Renaissance Enters Sabarimala.
The group, which has listed itself as a political organisation on Facebook, has 3054 followers. It tracks women attempting entry into the temple and their progress through links to news articles. Apart from these updates, the group also posts speeches by activists like Sunny M Kapikad, shares posters for protest meets and videos of protest songs. The group has frequently called for protection to be provided to women trekking to the temple.
On the day Ammini and Kanakadurga’s first attempted to enter Sabarimala, the group posted, “Bindu and Kanakadurga are in (police) custody. They demand Sabarimala darshan. Renaissance fighters, support them for the freedom to worship, for gender equality.”
The next day’s post read, “The government has given assurance. Entry into temple will be possible in the Mandalam season (of the temple). Advocate Bindu and Kanakadurga end hunger strike. Congratulations.”
On 26 December, the page shared a poster with a quote from Ammini. “Go to Sabarimala with the support and the protection of progressive movements and real devotees – Bindhu Ammini.” Another poster on 28 December says, “Going to Sabarimala with Bindu Ammini”
The page shared Shreyas Kanaran’s post with photos of Kanakadurga’s medical report. “How much money was Indus Scroll News given to spread rumours that Kanakadurga was on her period? They will be made to answer,” the accompanying text asked.
Before the women successfully entered the temple and offered prayers, the page shared videos of Kanakadurga posted by Kanaran on his Facebook page.