First women to pray at Hindu temple granted round-the-clock protection
The first women to pray at a Hindu temple previously only visited by men are to receive round-the-clock protection, India’s Supreme Court has ordered.
The top court on Friday directed the state government of Kerala to provide 24/7 security to two women who entered the Sabarimala shrine earlier this month, defying fundamentalists opposed to women of menstruating age being allowed in.
Bindu Ammini, 42, and Kanaka Durga, 44 had petitioned the top court for protection after they received death threats in the wake of their ground-breaking visit.
While it was legal for the pair to enter the temple following a Supreme Court ruling that it was unconstitutional to bar women aged 10-50, or of “menstruating ages”, temple devotees argue the ban was divine and owed to the celibacy of Lord Ayappa, the deity within.
Riots crippled the southern state for more than a week after Mrs Ammini and Mrs Duga prayed in the temple with right-wing Hindu groups calling a general strike.
“Having heard the lawyers we deem it appropriate to close this petition at this stage by directing Kerala to provide round the clock security”, the court ruled. “Beyond the above we do not consider it necessary to go into any other issues.”
Mrs Ammini said the verdict had made her feel safe after being forced into hiding.
“The judiciary has come to our rescue at a time when certain sections of the society are treating us as criminals as if we committed a big sin,” she said. “We were facing many threats. Even our children and relatives were not spared”.
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She added that she hoped the court ruling would mean more women will pay their respects at Lord Ayappa’s shrine.
“The latest directive will encourage many other women to trek to the temple,” she said.
The Kerala government has said it will comply with the court’s order and provide protection to the women.
Headed by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the government has thrown its weight behind the pair despite accusations from religious groups that it is run by “godless atheists”.