Monday started out as a normal day for Lakshmi, a Class 10 student in Mallappally in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district. But when she was returning from school, things took an ugly turn.
As she was going back home, two bike-borne men allegedly stopped and threatened the 15-year-old. “They both wore jackets and helmets, so that no one could identify them. One of them tried to hit me too, but I was able to dodge him. They threatened me saying, ask your sister to behave well,” Lakshmi tells TNM. “They said we’ll be finished if we didn’t keep quiet.”
The men were referring to a Facebook post her elder sister Navami Ramachandran had put up three days ago criticising taboos around menstruation in temples. Navami, who is a committee member of SFI in Pathanamthitta district and the Mallappally area secretary, had shared a picture on February 16 which read, “A room should be built outside the temple for the goddess to sit on menstruation days.”
It was a take on the highly prevalent practice of women being barred from entering temples when they are menstruating.
When the 19-year-old college student put up the post, she could not have anticipated the volume of online abuse she would receive. Or that those taking offense to the post would physically assault her 15-year-old sister as well.
One person commenting on her post asked if she was a Pakistani for expressing such views. Another attacked her upbringing saying that she was showing the “true character” of her father. One comment questioned, “Who are you to change Hindu traditions and customs? Why do you find flaws in Hindu religion only?” A majority of the comments were in Malayalam.
“Most of the comments for the post were from fake IDs while only one or two IDs were original,” Navami observes.
Her colleague in SFI, Syama, was also bullied online for sharing the post, Navami says. Syama is an SFI district committee member in Kasargod.
The two lodged a police complaint with the Thiruvalla DySP and the Circle Inspector at Mallappally. “Since the police are investigating the case, we have no further moves to make,” Navami says.
Second assault on Lakshmi
The online abuse was not all. After unknown men threatened Lakshmi on Monday, she was physically assaulted on Wednesday too.
Lakshmi had stepped out of the house around 7.50 am to buy milk when the incident occurred.
“It happened in the middle of a rubber plantation. There was no one nearby, and the two men on the bike had stopped there as if they were waiting for me. One of them hit me and I fell,” Lakshmi alleges.
She then lay on the ground, afraid to get up. “I was afraid that if I got up, they would attack me using some weapons,” Lakshmi says.
The teenager is terrified of stepping out of the house, but says she does not have an option. “I have to write my exams. It’s a good thing that my family is supporting me, along with CPI (M) members,” Lakshmi says.
While Lakshmi and Navami’s mother, Seetha, is the Mallappally branch committee secretary of CPI (M), their father Ramachandran is a former member of the party.
Navami believes that the people who attacked her sister might be affiliated to the Sangh Parivar. However, after Lakshmi was threatened, she said in another Facebook post that their tactics would not work.
“If I connect the incidents together, there is no doubt that the RSS is behind this. If anyone believes that we can be confined within homes with all these threats, they are wrong. You continue your attack. But don’t think that we are afraid of all this. We will continue like this,” Navami’s post from last Tuesday reads.
Her family has lodged a complaint against Lakshmi’s attackers at the Mallappally police station.