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Women in the middle of India's temple express themselves



A four-to-one majority of Supreme Court judges said the rule was unconstitutional, leading to an increasingly fragmented national debate on gender, religion, and the limits of the law.

Several other women have attempted to enter the temple since the verdict. But they were blocked by angry mobs.

The joining of Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga was like a flash of electricity: it inspired those who claim that the problem in an open, democratic society is gender equality. And it annoyed those who said the courts had no business in what they considered a matter of faith.

  Indian police protect a Hindu devotee after activists block their entry into the Sabarimala Temple on December 24, 201[ads1]8.

As news of her visit spread, deadly protests broke out in Kerala where at least one man died in violence. Hundreds were arrested. Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga were submerged in response to threats from Orthodox protesters.

"I never expected this situation, street violence killing one person, I never expected it," says Kanakadurga in an interview with CNN in one of the many safe homes she has stayed in since visiting the temple.

A group of volunteers – men and women supporting the court order – help them to go from place to place. If you keep them moving, says one of the volunteers, they are safe. (CNN does not identify the volunteers for security reasons.)

  Is the Kerala Temple fighting for gender, law or religion? Unfortunately, all three

CNN had arranged an appointment for a meeting with the women at a secret meeting place. Immediately after arrival, the vehicle they are traveling on disappears down the street – the women, it is said, are moving to a new hiding place. Only a few hours later, after being picked up by a volunteer and taken to a second location and then to a third location, we meet for an interview.

They spent days away from home, away from their families, their children, their jobs, and it's unclear when they can return to normal life. However, they say that on one occasion they would return to the temple in a heartbeat.

"I'm not worried about my safety, but about the safety of society," says Bindu Ammini, who says she did not make a pilgrimage because she is a believer, but because she supports the Order of the Supreme Court, CNN says. "Many people fight on the streets and I'm very worried."

As a former political activist, she says she draws strength from her family, her husband, and her 12-year-old daughter, who has encouraged her to visit the temple. Even her students are with her. "They are all with me."

Kanakadurga's family is against her for the time being. Like them, they are followers of Lord Ayyappa, the Hindu deity anchored in Sabarimala, who is forever conjugal.

"My family members discouraged my plan," she says. But she felt that she needed to leave, confident that in the end she would come to believe that it was possible to be a follower of Lord Ayappa and a follower of gender equality. "I'm not worried," she says with a smile. "My family members will accept me, I hope."

  Bindu Ammini (right) and Kanakadurga (left) follow the news of the protests triggered by their visit to the Sabarimala Temple in the southern state of Kerala.

"These are ladies, these are ladies!"

The couple met via an online forum set up by supporters of the September court order. "Immediately after the Supreme Court ruling, I decided to go to Sabarimala," says Bindu Ammini.

They made their first attempt on December 24 and were less than a mile from the temple, which was located on a steep hill in a remote tiger reserve when they came across what Bindu Ammini remembers as a wall of protesters. "I think more than (a thousand) people were there," she says. Concerned about women's safety, the police took her away.

"The police called my husband and asked, please come … and pick me and he says that … I have the right to decide to drive to Sabrimala and other places," says Bindu Ammini.

The two women refused to return to their homes until the police took them to the shrine. Elsewhere, Bindu Ammini told the police she was going on a hunger strike. It was followed by heavy telephone calls and then a promise that the authorities would help the couple to make another attempt.

It almost failed. Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, flanked by plainclothes police and supporters of the online forum, returned to a base camp near the temple grounds early in the morning of January 2 early in the morning. This was followed by a two-hour hike where the women say most of them Other devotees who went to the shrine did not seem to bother with their presence at all.

  Hindu devotees pray in the Sabarimala temple.

Most, but not all. Along the way, a man returning from the shrine noticed the two women and tried to sound an alarm. According to Bindu Ammini, it was about 2 o'clock in the morning. "He raised his voice" These are ladies, they are ladies! He even called someone Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga thought he might warn other protesters against the arrival of women, but he gave in when one of the plainclothes officers took him aside and gave him his According to Bindu Ammini, he was asked to withdraw from the official ID card.

To avoid the main approach, they used a route that was not accessible to the public to reach the chamber where Lord Ayyappa is anchored just before dawn. It's the only thing that deplores Bindu Ammini – that they could not scale the last 18 steps leading to the chamber like other common devotees. "I'm not quite happy with it (we had to avoid the eighteen steps)," she says.

  Bindu Ammini (left) and Kanakadurga (right) are in hiding in the face of threats from Orthodox protesters.

"Equal Rights for Women"

Since India was only a few months away from the parliamentary elections, they had the visit of Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga in the Center landed by a political struggle with high stakes. The battle continues: On January 22, the Supreme Court will call for petitions calling for its September verdict to be reviewed.

The local Communist politicians who rule Kerala support the Order of the Supreme Court and have spoken out in favor of the two women.

But the attempt to open the temple to women and girls of all ages was rejected by national leaders from all walks of life – both Congress and the main opposition to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya-Janata (BJP) and Modi himself.

In an interview with the Indian news agency ANI, which was published in the Sabarimala Shrine just one day before Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga joined, Modi referred to the dissenting opinion of the Bank of the Supreme Court in September – the opinion of how she occurs the only female judge in the case. "India believes that everyone should get justice, there are some temples that have their own traditions that men can not go to," Modi said, taking the side of those who opposed the court order.

Kanakadurga, unable to speak with her twelve-year-olds since January 2, says politicians should stop judging. They should stop discrimination. "Politicians should obey the Supreme Court ruling and give equality to women in society."

Bindu Ammini is more straightforward: "My message to the women of India is, please break the system and please break the evil ways." That's the message. "

The Sugam Pokharel by CNN contributed to this report


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