Published: 22nd October 2018
Indian female student in the US invites women to visit Sabarimala
The woman, Keerthana, studying Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, posted her message on a closed Facebook group Manthan, a public discussion forum, that had more than 6,700 members
An Indian woman studying at a top US university has called upon women interested in observing penance and going on a pilgrimage to the Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala in Kerala to exercise their freedom of worship.
Her post comes amidst a wave of sharp protests by Ayyappa devotees following a Supreme Court verdict which allowed all women, regardless of age, to enter the temple. The woman, Keerthana, studying Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, posted her message on the Facebook in a closed group of more than 6,700 members of Manthan, a public discussion forum based in Hyderabad. She said that she and some others were planning to undertake a fast and pilgrimage to Sabarimala, and interested women can ping her. "It has been four days and no woman has been able to enter the temple. Not many women are showing up either. All sides are considering a review petition and the government's stand is getting shaky. We only have ourselves to blame if we fully-grown women don't assert our freedoms and let it be taken away."
When Express contacted her, she said, "I am just thinking about it now. I'm living in the US, so I'll be able to do it only in January. I know several women who want to go to Sabarimala. They include my friends and their mothers, and other women with a lot of devotion. If there are violent protests, women need not just sit at home." It may be mentioned here that until the SC verdict, women of menstruating age had not been being allowed to enter the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala. Recently, two women, who tried to enter the temple after the SC verdict, were forced to return by protesters.
While Keerthana's message received adulation from some members, there were also a few, including women, who reacted critically to her idea, wondering why she was focusing on Sabarimala when there were many other issues that hinder empowerment of women.
In an article titled, 'Why the Sabarimala entry issue is personal?: Thoughts from your run-of-the-mill Malayali woman' on an online publishing platform, she calls the movement for entry of menstruating women to Sabarimala temple a fight by women to claim public spaces because "all women are menstruating women and should claim the temples, the homes and the Gods."