Sabrimala activist Bindu Ammini attacked in Kerala

A man from a radical Hindutva outfit attacked her with chilli powder and pepper spray outside the Kerala Commisserate

Bindu ammini

In a shocking incident, women’s rights activist Bindu Ammini, one of the first women to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa Shrine in Sabarimala, was attacked with chilli powder and pepper spray on her way to the shrine by a member of a radical Hindu outfit, Hindu Helpline (a Vishwa Hindu Parishad ally) on Tuesday.



The man identified as Srinath Padmanabhan was taken into custody, the police said. Ammini and Trupti Desai, another prominent women’s rights activist associated with the movement to gain temple entry rights for women at Shani Shingnapur temple in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, had reached the Kochi commissioner office to seek police security for their visit after arriving at the Kochi International Airport in the wee hours of Tuesday along with five other women. Officials said that a group of right-wing leaders apparently had a heated argument with Ammini, following which they sprinkled chili powder on her face. She was soon rushed to a hospital and now plans to file a case of contempt against the Kerala government for not providing protection to women in the 10 – 50 years age group to enter the Sabarimala temple even though the Supreme Court lifted the ban on entry of women in the said age group to the temple.

Trupti Desai said they preferred November 26 to visit the shrine as it was the Constitution Day.

The threats have been constant: In conversation with Sabrang India

Earlier this year, in a conversation with Sabrang India’s co-editor Teesta Setalvad, Bindu and Kanakadurga spoke about their ‘feat’ of entering the Sabarimala shrine.

Though Bindu was proud of being one of the first women to enter the Lord Ayyappa shrine, she said she didn’t need any credit to be the first one to do so as it was a process towards equal rights and she was just a part of the same.

The journey after, she said, had not been an easy one. “We faced troubles in the Kerala society by a minor section of the people like people from the Sangh Parivar – from organisations like the BJP, RSS, VHP and some other related organisations like the Karma Samithi”, she said.

She also spoke about how Kanakadurga, who was then staying in a short-stay home following protests and attacks from her own family was still holding her courage after the circumstances she went through to be part of what she called a ‘Renaissance’ movement.

Speaking about how she gathered courage herself to be involved in such a huge movement, Bindu said, “Kanaka’s situation and my situation is very different. I am from a Dalit family, because of which I think I am too courageous. Another thing is that, for the past 23 years, I’m involved in the political and social field of Kerala and I’ve participated and took leadership in some political and social movements in Kerala. My husband and family, even other family members all are very supportive of me. Even my neighbours and villagers protect me. They may keep different opinions from the ones I have, but they care about my safety.”


Who is Bindu Ammini

Bindu is a Dalit woman, a gender and social justice activist and a lecturer at the School of Legal Studies at Kerala’s Kannur University. A resident of the Kouilandy are of Kozhikide district, after her first visit to the Sabarimala temple last year, she was given round-the-clock security by the Supreme Court after repeated threats and intimidation by right-wing outfits.

She has been an active part of the political and social field in Kerala and has regularly backed movements to foster democracy.

In her younger days, Bindu was active in student politics. She served as a leader of the Kerala Vidyarthi Sanghathana, a left leaning student organisation. She took to teaching after completing a master’s degree in Law from Kerala University.

Bindu’s journey to Sabarimala

Bindu and Kanakadurga, the first two women to enter the shrine, met through an online forum after the Supreme Court said that the rule barring the entry of girls and women of child-bearing age into the temple was unconstitutional.

Speaking to the CNN, they said they made their first attempt to visit the temple on December 24, 2018. But there, they were met with what Bindu remembers to be a “wall of protestors”. “I think more than (a thousand) people were there,” she told reporters. Worried about the women’s safety, the police led them away.

Yet, the unrelenting women refused to go home until police took them to the shrine, threating to go on a hunger strike if the same didn’t happen. Soon, frantic phone calls followed and a promise was made by the authorities to help the two make another attempt.

Even that stint almost ended in failure, the CNN reported. On their way to the shrine, flanked by plainclothes officers, they reached a base camp near the temple site. From there they started their two-hour trek to the shrine, which was going well until one man returning from the shrine saw them and alerted everyone about ‘ladies’ making their way up, following which he called some people to alert them about the same.

However, he backed off when one of the plainclothes officers showed him his ID and told him to mind his own business.

Avoiding the main approach, they used a route that’s not open to the public to reach the chamber where Lord Ayyappa is enshrined shortly before daybreak. It’s the only thing that Bindu Ammini regrets — that they couldn’t climb up the final 18 steps that lead to the inner chamber like other ordinary devotees. “I am not fully satisfied that (we had to avoid the 18 steps),” she recounted to the CNN.

Where the Sabarimala issue currently stands

The Sabarimala case has been waiting a conclusion since the 1990s when a petition was filed in the Kerala High Court seeking a ban on the entry of women in the temple, following which the Kerala HC imposed a restriction on women, aged 10 to 50 on entering the temple.

In 2006, the Indian Young Lawyers Association filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking revocation of the ban and in 2007 the LDF government filed an affidavit supporting PIL questioning the ban on women’s entry.

Cut to 2016, when a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court questioned the ban, the LDF government took a U-turn stating it is duty-bound to “protect the right to practice the religion of these devotees.”

In April 2016, the SC said gender justice would be endangered if the ban was not revoked and that tradition couldn’t justify the ban. The LDF government took a U-turn once more following this.

The case was referred to a gender-equal Constitution bench and in 2018 it the court observed that it couldn’t remain oblivious to ban entry of women as they were barred on “physiological ground” of menstruation.

On September 28, 2018, The Supreme Court, in 4:1 verdict, allowed entry of women in Sabarimala temple, says banning females’ entry into the shrine is gender discrimination and the practice violates rights of Hindu women. Justice Indu Malhotra delivered the dissenting judgment.

On January 2, 2019, 96 days after the Supreme Court’s judgment, two women entered the temple. Bindu Ammini (42), an assistant professor at the School of Legal Studies, University of Kannur, and Kanakadurga (44), a Kerala government employee, made history in the process.

More than 50 petitions were subsequently filed by various organizations including the National Ayyappa Devotees (Women’s) Association, the Nair Service Society and the All Kerala Brahmin’s Association. On November 14, 2019 a Bench led by now retired Chief Justice Gogoi referred the case to a larger bench while keeping the review petitions pending. It was decided not to give police protection to women in 10-50 age group to trek the holy hills to reach the temple.

Speaking to The News Minute in November, Bindu said the decision of referring the case to a larger bench was “disappointing and politically motivated”. She said the final verdict “might turn out to be like the Ayodhya judgment” in which the court ‘toes the majoritarian view’ which could potentially destroy the secular fabric and constitutional values of the country.

Bindu, who was a former employee with the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation, was still hopeful at the time that progressive women would lead the fight no matter how many years the issue took to be settled.

Is her spirit going to be dampened after this attack or will her resolve to fight for her rights just grow stronger?

(Sources –, The Wire, The News Minute)


Sabarimala: Male devotee nurturing unholy thoughts is ‘unfit’ to visit Lord Ayyappa shrine

Teesta Setalavad talks to Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga, the first women to enter Sabarimala temple



Related Articles