By Aditya Aamir
Subterfuge, masking gender in police uniform, and threats to close the Sabarimala shrine have made null the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages into it. Women rights activists have been compelled to take on the outwardly cover of the male gender! The irony is not lost on anyone. Halted 500 metres short of the 18-steps to redemption, activist Rehana Fatima and journalist Kavita Jakkal returned to base camp Friday morning.
Another woman, ‘Mary Sweety-in-a-hurry’ (she’s 46, four short of the magical 50!) also couldn’t be ‘First Woman!’ The police, wiser by the Rehana-Kavita example, expressed their inability to give Mary the required protection needed to exercise her right to pray at Sabarimala. Mary Sweety had come all the way from Dubai to buck tradition and see rule of law prevail.
Inspector-General S Sreejith of Kerala Police is in the dock. “Who told him to change Kerala Police recruitment rules?” asked Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala. Rehana and Kavita did not go through the gruelling and mandatory tests to qualify for police service. Sreejith also did not take seriously the MHA advisory of October 16 warning of a confrontation building at Sabarimala. Putting Rehana and Kavita in police uniform and escorting them to battleground zero makes the IG complicit.
In fact, ‘‘Making History at Sabarimala” has become the sole aim of journalists and activists following the Supreme Court verdict. To date, since the temple opened evening of October 17, three to four determined “marches” on Sabarimala have been mounted by women’s rights activists and female journalists. Thursday, it was New York Times reporter Suhasini Raj, forced to retreat by a solid phalanx of chanting Ayyappa devotees.
Earlier, several women journalists had to face the wrath of Ayyappa devotees, violent men in black breaking car windshields and human resolve, leaving female journalists begging to “let go”. It was gross failure of the police. And hardcore women’s rights activist Rehana Fatima made the grade for the police to retaliate – redemption of another kind.
Rehana was at the forefront of the ‘Kiss of Love’ campaign that hit Kerala a couple of years ago. Her Facebook page is a clutter of provocative pictures and ‘challenges’ thrown to the male order. She rides a Bullet motorcycle and was first woman to do the ‘Pulikalli’ or tiger-dance. In a Facebook post, she says she’s an atheist, but Friday at Sabarimala claimed to be an ardent Ayyappa devotee.
Reports are afloat now that Rehana Fatima carried “tampons” in her ‘irumudikkettu’ – bundles Ayyappa devotees carry on their head when heading for pilgrimage. Friday, her house in Kochi was vandalized soon after she mounted the “assault on Sabarimala” by men who came on motorbikes. She’s married and is a mother but activism is her passion and there’s no stopping her; that much she reiterated at Pamba. Her “accomplice” Kavita Jakkal is a Hyderabad-based ‘Mojo TV’ journalist, who claimed after the near conquest of Sabarimala that she was a “winner”, after all. “I got within 500 metres.”
Fact of the matter is post-Friday events, Kerala Police stands discredited in “conservative” God’s Own Country. The police erred in giving “VVIP cover” to activist Rehana Fatima, whose “notoriety” precedes her, and journalist Kavita Jakkal, at a “time when Kerala is a tinderbox about to go up in fire.” Quite frankly, police have much to answer. In fact, by being overly proactive, the police has actually made it all the more difficult to implement the SC order.
The priesthood of Sabarimala has joined the battle, coming out openly against “attempts to destroy long-held traditions of Sabarimala” and threatening to “lock the temple doors” and handing over the keys to Ayyappan’s ancestral Pandalam royal family. That was the straw that broke IG Sreejith’s back. The Pandalam royals are the final custodians of the Sabarimala temple and they can shut up the temple for good.
The logic that escapes north-India headquartered television channels is that if Ayyappa loses his celibate status, the raison ‘detre for his deity-ship and “existence” of the temple crumbles irrevocably. The legend of Ayyappa dies and what remains of the temple is an empty shell and a gold-plated idol with “no life” in it. No deity means no temple means no annual pilgrimages. The government of Kerala might as well declare the place a tourist destination and invite Pizza Hut and McDonald’s to set up shop – Trupti Massage Parlour and Pinarayi Tiger Macchan! (IPA Service)