Kerala woman faces online abuse for planning Sabarimala trip

Reshma Nishanth

Thiruvananthapuram: Amid raging protests over the Sabarimala issue, a Keralite woman, who announced her decision to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa shrine, Monday complained that she was being slut-shamed and subjected to threats and abuses on social media.

Emboldened by the Supreme Court order permitting entry of women of all age groups into the hill temple, Reshma Nishanth, a 32-year-old native of Kannur district, recently put a Facebook post stating that she would visit the shrine.

On 28 September, a five-judge Constitution bench, headed by then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, lifted the ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine. Claiming to be a staunch devotee of Lord Ayyappa, Reshma said she had already started the 41-day ‘vrata‘ (penance) to trek to the forest temple during the annual pilgrimage season beginning on 17 November.

She also started wearing the ‘bead chain’ with the locket of Lord Ayyappa as part of the customary rituals before proceeding to Sabarimala. “A large number of people have extended support to my decision to visit the shrine. But, slut-shaming and body shaming are also going on against me,” she said.

“Soon after I announced my wish and decision to offer prayers at the Ayyappa temple, threats and abusive comments are flooding the social media platforms,” she said. A group of people, suspected to be people who oppose the implementation of the Supreme Court order, Sunday had raised slogans in front of her house and threatened that she would not be allowed to enter Sabarimala at any cost.

However, an unperturbed Reshma Nishanth said the apex court had granted permission for women devotees like her to visit the hill shrine and expressed hope that the state government and police would provide necessary protection to her.

Some other young women would also accompany her during the pilgrimage, she added. Reshma said her husband Nishanth, a local bank employee and other family members were all supportive of her decision. Bindhu, a young homemaker from northern Kozhikode district, Monday said, she along with 30 other women are planning to visit Sabarimala during the three-month-long Mandala-Makaravilakku season.

Kerala has been witnessing intense protests including prayer marches and mass rallies by Lord Ayyappa devotees and right wing outfits against the implementation of the apex court verdict lifting the age restriction on women to visit the hill shrine.

The Shiv Sena’s state unit recently warned of “mass suicides” if women of the “banned” age group visits Sabarimala. Police have booked actor-turned-BJP supporter, Kollam Thulashi for his controversial remarks that “women in the restricted age group who visit the Lord Ayappa Temple should be ripped apart.”

Senior state minister E P Jayarajan Monday said the CPI(M) led-LDF government would provide necessary security to all believers who wish to trek to the holy hill and offer prayers at the temple. A Padmakumar, president of Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the shrine, told PTI that he was not ready to comment anything on the matter right now.