96 days after a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court said that women of all ages must be permitted entry to the sanctum sanctorum, Bindu and Kanakadurga entered the temple in the wee hours of January 2, ushering a new era for Kerala, and for the temple itself.
However, Bindu and Kanakadurga entered the temple women after many women were who have faced opposition, have been heckled, abused, and threatened for attempting to enter the temple, and each one inched further. Sabarimala opened its doors for the first time since the verdict on October 17, and amid massive protests, a woman made an attempt to enter.
Madhavi: Forty-year-old Andhra Pradesh native Madhavi, accompanied by her parents and her children, began the climb to the temple on the day the temple opened its doors. They were accompanied by the police, but had to turn back soon. Madhavi made it though Nilakkal and Pamba, but had to return due to the protesters.
Libi CS: On the same day as Madhavi, journalist and editor of Newsgil, a news website, Libi had written a long Facebook post, where she had announced her intention to travel to the temple, but was halted at Pathanamthitta bus stand, 65 km away from the temple. However, Libi was gheraoed by protesters, who pushed against the protective ring of police around her and attempted to take swipes at her or push her.
Suhasini Raj: The very next day, on October 18, Suhasini Raj, a journalist with the New York Times attempted to enter the temple to report, along with a colleague. Suhasini went further than Madhavi did and reach Marakootam, but was heckled and opposed, and decided to descend the hill.
Kavitha Jakkala: 24-year-old Hyderabad-based news anchor Kavitha Jakkala was the next one to attempt the climb, on October 19. Kavitha, clad in military fatigues and a helmet to protect herself from the crowd that also had Hindutva activists, which has been staging violent protests for the past two days. She was accompanied by three other crew members the television channel she worked for. Kavitha and her crew were then joined by Rehana Fathima on their climb.
Rehana Fathima: Perhaps the most controversial of them all was the attempt by Rehana Fathima from Ernakulam. Rehana and Kavitha were forced to turn back just 500 m away from the steps, after the situation started to get out of hand. The priests of the temple halted their daily rituals, came out of the temple, and sat at the base of the 18 steps leading up to the temple to the protest the entry of the women. The Thantri family and the Pandalam royal family threatened to close down the temple doors if the women proceeded. However, Rehanaâ€™s troubles had just begun. Her house was first vandalised. A few days later, she was arrested by the Pathanamthitta police on November 27 for allegedly posting content on Facebook that hurt the sentiments of Ayyappa devotees. She was in jail for 18 days for hurting sentiments and is out on bail. Following the arrest, she was suspended by BSNL, her employer.
Mary Sweety: 46-year-old Mary Sweety from Kazhakkoottam, who had earlier worked as a media professional in the Gulf, first attempted to enter the temple on October 19, soon after Rehana and Kavitha. At the time, police declined to provide her protection. She made a second attempt on November 18. She boarded a bus at Chengannur, 30 km from Sabarimala, where she was stopped by the police and persuaded to turn back.
SP Manju: 38-year-old State Secretary of the Kerala Dalit Mahila Federation, Manju from Chathannoor, Karunagappally arrived in Pamba police station on October 20, in order to seek police protection. Inspector General of Police S Sreejith held a meeting with her, and said that they would verify her background. She too then had to turn back.
Bindu Thankam Kalyani: The woman to have faced the toughest ordeal was Bindu Thankam Kalyani, a Dalit activist and teacher at the Medical College Campus Higher Secondary School in Kozhikode. Along the route, Bindu was attacked multiple times. The police van she was in was violently attacked, its path was then blocked by protesters. After protesters gathered outside the police station where she was, she decided to turn back. Bindu and her friends returned to Kozhikode at around 3 am on Tuesday and since protesters had gathered outside Binduâ€™s home, they made their way to a friendâ€™s flat, but protesters had found their way there as well. She was also asked to move out of her house. Post this, Bindu had to go into hiding for a few days.
Trupti Desai: Bhumata Brigadeâ€™s Trupti Desai landed at the Cochin International Airport on November 16 and spent 15 hours at the airport, and wasnâ€™t allowed to leave, before she decided to return. As a horde of protesters descended on the airport (1000 people by some estimates), Trupti and her companions were forced to return.
Manithi group: 11 women devotees from Tamil Naduâ€™s Manithi organisation reached Pamba on December 23, but the police refused to provide them protection, and while they protested for eight whole hours, it went in vain. They were heckled by protesters and were soon forced to return after the police.
Ammini: After A Dalit activist from Wayanad, Ammini, after a long standoff, was forced to turn back from Erumely.
Bindu and Kanakadurga: The two made their first attempt on December 24, and were forced to turn back less than a kilometre away from the Sannidhanam. Massive protests broke out around them in the Chandranandan road, and they had to be guarded by a 50-member police battalion when the police took the decision to abandon attempts.