Faced with threats, two women who entered Kerala's Sabarimala temple earlier this month - defying a decades-old ban on women of menstrual age - have approached the Supreme Court seeking protection. The top court has agreed to hear their petition tomorrow.
Kanaka Durga, 39, and 40-year-old Bindu Ammini are the first women below 50 in decades to enter the hilltop shrine. For the past two weeks, they had been staying in an undisclosed location on the outskirts of Kochi, under state protection. On Tuesday, Kanaka Durga was attacked allegedly by her mother-in-law when she returned home. She is being treated for head wounds at a hospital.
"These two women face threat to their life and liberty... one of them was attacked and is in hospital... they want 24x7 police protection," senior lawyer Indira Jaising, appearing for the women, told a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. She also asked for their addresses to not be disclosed.
The petition also seeks an end to "purification" rituals after the entry of women - between the age of 10 and 50 - into the temple.
"Issue directions to declare that the rite of purification diminishes the dignity as human beings and violates their fundamental right," the petition said. The temple had shut down for ritual "purification" briefly before reopening to devotees after Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini walked into the shrine on January 2.
The two women soon went into hiding after threats by right-wing protesters.
The temple has been the site of tension since the Supreme Court ruled on September 28 to end the age restriction on women. The court order has not been accepted by the devotees and protesters who believe women should not be allowed near the shrine's deity, Lord Ayyappa.
Since the court order, all attempts by women to visit the shrine were blocked by thousands of devotees - until the two women entered the shrine before dawn on January 2, escorted by policemen.