It was an extraordinary act of defiance, from two ordinary women who have since been forced into hiding.On January 2, Bindu Ammini, a 40-year-old law
It was an extraordinary act of defiance, from two ordinary women who have since been forced into hiding.On January 2, Bindu Ammini, a 40-year-old law lecturer, and Kanakadurga, a 39-year-old local government employee, made history when they entered India’s Sabarimala Hindu temple in southern Kerala state — the first women to do so since the country’s top court scrapped a rule barring the entry of girls and women of child-bearing age.
A 4-to-1 majority of Supreme Court judges said the rule was unconstitutional, setting off what has become an increasingly fractious national debate about gender, religion and the limits of the law.
Several other women have attempted to enter the temple since the ruling. But they’ve been blocked by angry mobs.
Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga’s entry was like a bolt of electricity: It invigorated those who say that issue boils down to gender equality in an open, democratic society.
And it angered those who say that the courts have no business intervening in what they see as a matter of faith.
As news of their visit spread, deadly protests broke out across Kerala, with at least one man dying in the violence.
Hundreds were arrested. Facing threats from orthodox protestors, Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga went into hiding.”I never expected this situation. Street violence, one person killed.
I never expected this,” Kanakadurga tells CNN in an interview at one of the many the safe houses they’ve stayed in since visiting the temple.A group of volunteers — men and women who back the court order — help them move from place to place.
Keeping them on the move, one of the volunteers said, keeps them safe. (CNN is not identifying the volunteers for safety reasons).
Most, but not all. Along the way, a man returning from the shrine noticed the two women and tried to raise an alarm. It was approximately 2 a.m., according to Bindu Ammini. “He raised his voice ‘These are ladies, these are ladies!'” she recalls.He even phoned somebody.
Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga thought he might be alerting other protestors opposed to the entry of women. But he gave way when one of the plainclothes policemen took him aside and showed him his official ID, effectively telling him to back off, according to Bindu Ammini.Avoiding the main approach, they used a route that’s not open to the public to reach the chamber where Lord Ayyappa is enshrined shortly before daybreak.
It’s the only thing that Bindu Ammini regrets — that they couldn’t climb up the final 18 steps that lead to the inner chamber like other ordinary devotees. “I am not fully satisfied that (we had to avoid the 18 steps),” she says.