'I'm Not Ready To Back Down' Says The First Woman Under 50 To Enter Sabarimala

"If my husband and family members are against my decision, then it is because of their ignorance,” says Kanaka Durga

January 2 was an important day in Kerala and for 42-year-old Kanaka Durga. She, along with Bindu Ammini, entered Sabarimala temple, becoming the first women under 50 to enter the shrine after the Supreme Court verdict.

Three weeks later, Kanaka Durga, from Malappuram district, finds herself in a government-run shelter. Her family has disowned her.
Things were not smooth for her after returning from the shrine. She was, allegedly, attacked by her mother-in-law and was undergoing treatment at Kozhikode Medical College. Her family members had asked her to apologise for the act, but Durga refuses to back down.
“I want my rights and freedom in all matters. Being a devotee, I exercised my right given by the Supreme Court. If my husband and family members are against it, then it because of their ignorance,” says Durga, an employee of the civil supplies corporation.

Her brother,Bharat Bhooshan, was on the dais in a mass gathering of protesting Ayyappa devotees held at the state capital on Sunday. During the event, Bharat said that Durga will not be allowed back home until she apologises publicly.

Ever since the Supreme Court verdict came on September 28, lifting the age ban on entry of women in Sabarimala, protests were held at various parts of the state against the entry of women of menstruating age. Durga and Bindu, a college lecturer, had tried to trek to Sabarimala on December 24 but returned after protests from the agitators. Many of them claim that the women entering the shrine after the verdict were “activists” who came to “prove their point”.

However, Durga said, ‘’I am a devotee but I stand for gender equality too’’.

The verdict has led to debates on customs and rituals being “anti-women” and the notion of menstruation being “impure” was also questioned in the discourses that followed. The LDF government even organised a Women Wall, with lakhs of women lining up across the state for gender justice.

“Religions in general practice patriarchy in almost all matters,” Durga said adding that the same was reflected in the Sabarimala issue too.
After Durga and Bindu entered the shrine, Kerala witnessed violent protest and the BJP called for a statewide shutdown.
Will all these protests discourage those women who are planning to trek to Sabarimala?

An optimistic Durga said that more will follow. “Women of this era are bold and armoured by the truth.”

The Supreme Court has asked the Kerala government to give protection for Bindu and Durga.

After facing all these oppositions from various quarters, Durga is still optimistic she says “The flow of time will wash away all the hurdles with it.”