A day after she was thrown out of her marital home in Kerala’s Malappuram, Kanakadurga – one of the first women of menstruating age to enter the Sabarimala temple since the Supreme Court in September lifted the traditional ban on such women praying at the shrine – said on Wednesday that she would not apologise to anyone.
Her brother Bharath Bhushan reportedly asked her on Monday to publicly apologise to devotees of Ayyappa, Sabarimala’s principal deity, for defiling the temple if she wanted to be allowed to return home.
“I am not going to say sorry to anyone,” she told Scroll.in on Wednesday. “I have not committed any wrong by word or deed. I would like to reiterate that no one, including my brother and husband, has any right to stop me from entering my home.”
Kanakadurga, a civil servant, said she would fight her case legally. “My husband Krishnanunni also played a role in throwing me out,” she said. “But I will enter home with the court order. Till then I will stay at the One Stop Centre.”
One Stop Centres are an initiative of the state’s Social Justice Department that provide shelter to women facing physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and economic abuse. Kanakadurga was admitted to the One Stop Centre in Perinthalmanna, 20 km southeast of district headquarters of Malappuram, on Monday.
Kanakadurga, 41, and her friend Bindu Ammini, 42, made history on January 2 when they became the first women of menstruating age to enter the Sabarimala temple since the Supreme Court’s order.
Kanakadurga works as a manager with the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation. She got acquainted with Bindu through a Facebook page called Navothana Keralam Sabarimalayilekku or Renaissance Kerala to Sabarimala. The page is an online meeting place for women of all ages who wish to go to Sabarimala.
Following the entry of the two women into the shrine, Kerala witnessed unprecedented violence for three continuous days. Angry members of Hindutva outfits attacked police and hurled crude bombs at offices and houses of political opponents, alleging that the entry of the women was made possible by the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front government.
The temple conducted a purification ritual on January 3.
The women subsequently decided to stay in hiding, away from their homes, until tempers settled. They returned home on January 15.
The day she returned to her marital home, Kanakadurga was assaulted by her mother-in-law, who hit her on the head with a wooden plank. She fell down, injuring her head and neck. She was taken to the medical college in neighbouring Kozhikode district.
“Bindu Ammini and I decided to stay away from home for 13 days fearing a mob attack,” said Kanakadurga. “But I was shocked to realise that I was not safe even at home. I spent five days at hospital. I am not fully recovered. I still have trouble in speaking and moving my neck around.”
On January 18, a Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Nageswara Rao and Dinesh Maheshwari asked the Kerala government to provide both Bindu and Kanakadurga with round-the-clock security.
Kanakadurga was discharged from hospital on Monday. But as her brother and husband declared that she would not be allowed to enter their homes, the police took her to the One Stop Centre.
‘I am proud’
Kanakadurga said she was not perturbed by the attack on her “because I did the right thing”. “I utilised my constitutional right to worship at the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple,” she said. “I am extremely proud that I exercised my right.”
She said, however, that she never expected her family to disown her. “It was a big let down but I am not worried,” said Kanakadurga. “If you look at Kerala’s history, those who stood for renaissance or tried to modernise orthodox society have faced much more difficulties than me. I hope to tide over this challenge with the passage of time.”
Kanakadurga criticised her brother for participating in a massive meeting of Ayyappa devotees, organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Thiruvanthapuram on Sunday, where he reportedly apologised to them for her Sabarimala visit. “Let him get publicity,” she said. “But he should refrain from tarnishing my image in public. He will get back whatever he does.”
She added: “I am sure that people in the progressive state of Kerala will realise his ulterior motives.”