Dalit Activist Bindu Ammini to Quit Kerala Under Protest Against Entrenched Stereotypes and State Apathy

The first woman to enter Sabarimala temple believes that the state, by failing to protect the victims and instead shielding the wrongdoers, is complicit in perpetuating injustice.
Dalit Activist Bindu Ammini to Quit Kerala Under Protest Against Entrenched Stereotypes and State Apathy

Kerala: In defiance of the Kerala government's hypocritical practices, Bindu Ammini, a brave 45-year-old Dalit activist, lawyer and a college lecturer at Calicut who dared to enter the renowned and restricted Sabarimala temple, now chooses to leave the state known as "God's own country." Bindu plans to relocate to northern India in states like Delhi or Uttar Pradesh, even though it is a completely unfamiliar place for her.

Bindu made history in January 2019 when she, along with Kanaka Durga, became the first women to enter the Sabarimala temple after the Supreme Court lifted the ban on women of all ages. This empowering feat, however, quickly turned into a nightmare for Bindu, as she faced physical and online assaults from right-wing workers.

It was after prominent attorney Indira Jaising raised concerns about her security before the Supreme Court that Bindu was accorded round-the-clock police protection. Despite having 24/7 police protection, she was subjected to brutal attacks even in the presence of officers.

The inaction of the state government and police in response to her complaints force Bindu to make the difficult decision of leaving Kerala, her home state.

She believes that the state, by failing to protect the victims and instead shielding the wrongdoers, is complicit in perpetuating injustice.

Mwanwhile, former State Vice President of the Bhim Army- Kerala, Mansoor Kochukadavu, expressed his dismay through a tweet, stating that it is concerning how the accused attackers are living comfortably in Kerala, and how the supposedly progressive state is less safe for the SC/ST communities compared to some North Indian states; he further commented that in Kerala, the lives of Dalits hold less value than that of animals.

Protest against the entrenched stereotypes

In a detailed conversation with The Mooknayak, Bindu spoke about her life after January 2019 , when she entered the Sabarimala temple. She says she has decided to leave Kerala not because of any fear of attacks or a lack of peace of mind, but as a means of protesting against the state government's failure to fulfill its obligation of ensuring the safety and security of its citizens, which is the primary duty of any responsible state.

" My departure from Kerala is not motivated by any desire for serenity or safety, but rather it is a protest against the entrenched stereotypes that pervade our society, and an expression of distrust in the government's ability to protect its citizens which is its prime duty."

She further adds, " Kerala, like several other states in India, is not conducive to living for adivasis and dalits. Despite the state's projection of an inclusive and progressive image, the reality on the ground is quite different."

Relocation issues; language barrier

When asked about her decision to move to Delhi or UP, which have entirely different cultural and social environments, and above all, a language barrier, Bindu stated that she understands the language may be an issue but she is confident she can cope with it.

" Language could pose an issue , however, as an educated person capable of expressing my thoughts and feelings, I believe I can cope with the language barrier. I believe I can communicate effectively in the necessary words required for understanding between individuals" says the confident woman.

Given Bindu Ammini's background as an experienced activist in kisan movements, she believes that she would benefit from a more robust support system if she were to relocate to the country's capital or its surrounding areas. Additionally, she believes that the central region of the country, particularly the capital, Delhi, is often considered the epicenter of political and social movements, which could provide her with a conducive environment to continue her work as an activist.

On being asked about her family , she says her husband, Hariharan, who manages a small publishing firm would remain at their current location. Bindu's daughter, Olga, bears the name of a German-Brazilian socialist leader, and will have the liberty of choosing whether to accompany her mother after she has completed her studies.

The Sabarimala Shrine & Women

The Sabarimala temple, one of the most famous temples in Kerala, had been imposing a ban on entry for women of menstruating age for many years. This practice was upheld as the temple was considered the abode of Ayyappan, a Hindu Brahmachari (celibate) deity, also known as Dharma Shasta.

After a historic verdict from the Supreme Court of India on September 28, 2018, which declared the Sabarimala temple's ban on women unconstitutional, it was opened to all pilgrims. However, despite the ruling, hundreds of women who attempted to enter the temple were prevented from doing so and faced attacks, insults, and humiliation from right-wing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) workers. The incidents highlight the ongoing battle for gender equality and women's rights in India.

Bindu Ammini and her background

Bindu hails from Poyilkavu in Kozhikode and her upbringing was characterized by hardship, as she was brought up in poverty by her mother, who was illiterate and earned her livelihood working on farms, factories and in hotels.

Bindu Ammini holds the distinction of being the trailblazer in her kin to pursue university education, which she began in 2001. During her student days, she exhibited leadership skills as a member of the Kerala Vidyarthi Sanghatana, the student wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI [ML]).

Ammini studied law at Government Law College, Ernakulam, and subsequently obtained her LL.M. from the University of Kerala, Kariavattom Campus, Thiruvananthapuram. Following this, Ammini gained employment as a lawyer in the Koyilandy court, and later on, as a lecturer at various academic institutions, including the University of Calicut and Kannur University Thalassery Campus School of Legal Studies.

Until March 2023, she worked as a faculty at the Government Law College in Kozhikode. Additionally, she holds the role of the state leader in the Bhim Army, an organization concerned with the rights of Dalits. She also embraces subaltern feminism, a movement that advocates for women's rights in the oppressed classes.

Interestingly, Ammini was the first state secretary of the CPI-ML (Kanu Sanyal) in Kerala, and may have been the first woman to hold that position in India. In 2019, while she served on the central committee of the CPI-ML (Kanu Sanyal), she had the privilege of meeting Kanu Sanyal himself, one of the principal stalwarts of the Naxalbari movement, in West Bengal.

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