Just as Ammini, a Dalit activist from Wayanad, and four other women reached Erumely to go to Sabarimala, 11 women from Tamil Nadu’s Manithi organisation were forced to leave amid growing protests.

Why couldnt we be protected Dalit activist Ammini turned away from Sabarimala Courtesy: Facebook.com
news Sabarimala Sunday, December 23, 2018 - 19:25

Ammini sounds vexed after the long hours of tensions from the time she came and left Erumely, en route to Sabarimala, along with four other women, all below 50 years of age. She speaks in a hurried tone, with her voice rising above the noises of the place she is at. They are on the way to the Superintendent of Police’s office in Kottayam, not giving up on her hope to visit Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala, even after facing massive protests on Sunday morning.

Ammini, a Dalit activist from Wayanad, says she made the decision to climb Sabarimala soon after the Supreme Court verdict in September, allowing women of all ages into the temple, previously barred to women between 10 and 50. “Soon after the SC judgement, there was a Democratic Rights Convention held in Kottayam, attended by believers of democracy, human right workers and village workers. We had announced our decision to visit the temple then. It is after this that the women's group Manithi wrote a letter to the Chief Minister about their wish to visit the temple,” she says.

When they learned of Chennai-based group Manithi’s plan to help women devotees reach the temple, Ammini and a team from Kerala decided to join them. But their plan to meet at the Kottayam railway station and go together to the temple had changed over the course of the night on Saturday when protestors tried to stop the Tamil Nadu group throughout their journey to Kerala. At the same time, Ammini and team – five women and two men from different parts of the state – were travelling in two vehicles.

“Manithi has been doing such good work from the time of the Jisha murder case in Kerala. Selvi, who was heading it, had made a lot of interventions for justice for Jisha. I know the group from those days and have been in touch with them since. But I couldn’t meet them on Sunday. They were chased away by right-wing workers and the police couldn’t protect them,” Ammini says, vexed.

Eleven women had come from Tamil Nadu to Pamba, before 4 in the morning on Sunday, and the police had to take them away when a large number of protestors had reached the ground and were showing signs of attacking them.

Ammini’s team had come afterwards; but minutes before reaching Pamba, they, too, had to be turned away, fearing violence from the gathering protestors.

Ammini is quite worked up that even after informing the police and the government about their plans to visit Sabarimala temple, well in advance, none of them could be taken to the shrine. “It shows the government’s failure. We had asked the government for a suitable date to visit the temple. If December 23 was not convenient, they could have told us before and given another date. They have cheated us and insulted us now. It is negligence towards women,” she says.

Ammini and other women, however, have not let go of their hopes, as devotees, to visit the temple. After meeting the SP, they hope to get an appointment with the Chief Minister to follow up on their proposed visit.

Also read: Sabarimala row: Kerala govt passes buck to monitoring committee on entry of 11 TN women

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