Kerala Women’s Commission takes up ‘pepper spray’ attack on activist Bindu Ammini

Bindu Ammini, rights activist, arguing with police outside the City Police Commissioner's Office in Kochi on Tuesday morning.

Bindu Ammini, rights activist, arguing with police outside the City Police Commissioner's Office in Kochi on Tuesday morning.   | Photo Credit: H. Vibhu

Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran sees “bigger conspiracy” to disrupt Sabarimala pilgrimage

The Kerala State Women’s Commission (KSWC) has opened an enquiry into the ‘pepper spray’ attack on women activist Bindu Ammini in Kochi.

KSWC chairperson and central committee member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) M. C. Josephine expressed shock at the incident. She told The Hindu that the Commission had registered a case on its own and initiated legal proceedings against the perpetrators.

Ms. Ammini was one of the two women who entered the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple after the Supreme Court struck down a custom that prevented women of menstruating age from worshipping at the shrine in 2018.

Her entry into the sanctum alongside Kanakadurga had gained national attention, prompted priests to shut down the temple for a controversial purification ritual and triggered widespread violence by Sangh Parivar forces across Kerala.

Ms Ammini was part of a group of women activists allied to the Pune-based Bhumata Brigade and its leader Trupti Desai. An alleged Sangh Parivar activist targeted Ms. Ammini when she was at the office of the District Police Chief, Kochi, to seek police protection for her onward journey to Sabarimala.

Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran condemned the attack on Ms. Ammini in strong terms.

However, he said the “set piece” protests against the activists appeared to be part of a “bigger conspiracy to disrupt the pilgrimage and sow seeds of unrest in Kerala”.

Mr. Surendran said a national channel had interviewed Ms. Desai and her compatriots when they alighted at the Kochi International Airport. The channel broadcast their intention to journey to Sabarimala and their temporary stop at the office of the Commissioner for police to seek the law enforcement's protection.

Soon, as if on a cue, Sangh Parivar activists mustered in strength outside the police facility and raised a noisy protest. It seemed they had a prescient warning about the arrival of Ms. Desai and her supporters, he said.

“The entire chain of events seemed preset and smacked of a plot to disrupt the pilgrimage,” Mr. Surendran told journalists. He said the attempt to unleash trouble had come at a time when the pilgrimage was progressing smoothly, and offering from devotees had touched an all-time high.

‘Ammini didn’t meet Law Minister’

The Minister denied reports that Ms. Ammini had met Law Minister A. K. Balan in the Government Secretariat last week and aired her intention to accompany workers of the Bhumata Brigade to Sabarimala. The State government had nothing to do with their travel plans. It had received legal advice that the government was under no juridical obligation to escort women activists to Sabarimala.

He said the Supreme Court’s latest order lacked clarity on whether its 2018 verdict allowing the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50 to the temple remained operational. Some quarters interpreted the latest court decision as one that put the earlier order in abeyance. He said any citizen could move the court to seek lucidity.

Former State president of the Bharatiya Janata Party Kummanam Rajasekharan told journalists that neither the BJP nor the Sangh Parivar had anything to do with the attack on Ms. Ammini. He said the person arrested in connection with the incident was not a member of the party.

Mr. Rajasekharan said the government's lack of commitment to protecting customs and practices unique to Sabarimala lay at the heart of the latest outbreak of protests by devotees. The State should take a clear stance in the Supreme Court to protect Sabarimala faith. Mr. Rajasekharan said devotees would resist any move to dilute religious customs at Sabarimala.

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 9:31:05 PM |

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