Gender activists may move Supreme Court against Kerala govt. on being denied protection to enter Sabarimala

Gender activist Trupti Desai, who had to cancel her trip to Sabarimala on Tuesday, and Bindu Ammini – who was among the first two women to enter the temple last year — may move Supreme Court against the Kerala government on being denied protection to enter the temple.

Desai had to cancel her plan to visit Sabarimala temple on Tuesday after being denied security by the Kochi Police authorities. She said she would definitely visit the temple later. Desai, along with six other women, had planned to visit Sabarimala on Tuesday. She said that she had informed the Kerala chief minister and the state’s director general of police of the visit and added that if they knew that there was threat to their lives, they should have been informed earlier.

The team reached Kochi police commissionerate office straight from the airport. However, a group of Hindu right-wing activists, some Bharatiya Janata Party workers and Sabarimala Karma Samiti activists started protesting their visit to the temple outside the commissionerate office. Amidst all the chaos, Bindu Ammini was attacked with pepper spray by a right-wing activist.

Ammini was part of Desai’s team. The protest – staged to oppose the women’s visit to Sabarimala – went on for 12 hours outside the commissionerate office, following which the police instructed Desai to give up her plans of visiting the temple. They refused to provide them protection.

When the activists asked for a written statement from police clarifying the reasons for not giving them protection, police refused to do so saying that the matter was sub-judice and that it may invite trouble for them and the government. The police meanwhile, told journalists that the activists were not given any protection as the Supreme Court’s 2018 order that allowed women of all ages to enter the temple “was under review”.

The ban on women’s entry into the Sabarimala temple has become a major political issue in Kerala and beyond. The ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) had earlier supported the entry of women when, in September 2018, a five-judge constitution bench had allowed women of all ages to enter the temple in a landmark judgement. However, this had led to massive protests all over the state and only a few women were able to enter. The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had opposed the entry of women.

Earlier this month, a five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court gave a 3:2 verdict stating that a seven-judge bench should review the matter. Following this, the government has refused to give protection to women keen on entering Sabarimala. The recent judgement has not put a stay on the earlier order. But a section of the government insists that there is “some confusion”.

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