Sabarimala: India woman who defied temple ban ‘abandoned’ by family


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An Indian woman who defied a historic ban to enter a prominent temple in the southern state of Kerala has been abandoned by her family, officials say.

Kanaka Durga, 39, had been in hospital since 15 January after she was allegedly beaten by her mother-in-law for entering the Sabarimala shrine.

The Hindu temple has traditionally been closed to women of “menstruating age” – defined as between 10 and 50.

India’s top court overturned the ban in September, sparking massive protests.

Many women tried to enter the temple after the court ruling, but were stopped by angry mobs of protesters. Ms Kanaka Durga entered the shrine along with another woman, on 2 January.

Thankachan Vithayatil, a social worker, told BBC Hindi’s Imran Qureshi that when Ms Kanaka Durga came home on Monday evening from the hospital, she had found the door locked. No-one was home, including her husband and two sons.

“She was accompanied by the police and they took her to a government home for women,” Mr Vithayatil added.

After staying the night there, Ms Kanaka Durga went to the police station, where her husband, Krishnan Unni, had been called in for questioning.

“He was not willing to take her home, while she kept insisting that she would go wherever he went,” superintendent Prateesh Kumar, told BBC Hindi.

He added that Mr Unni eventually left without her and she returned to the women’s home.

Police said the matter will now be decided in court as Ms Kanaka Durga had earlier registered a case of domestic violence against her mother-in-law.

“She will petition the court for permission to enter her house. She is very upset,” Mr Thankachan said.

Ms Kanaka Durga and Ms Bindu Ammini, were forced into hiding and had to keep moving locations under police protection as news of their entry sparked violent protests across the state.

When Ms Kanaka Durga first returned home from hiding she told police her mother-in-law beat her.

“They did not want her to return home because they believed she had tarnished their name. Her community was also opposed to women entering the temple,” Prasad Amore, an activist and friend who had campaigned for women’s right to enter the Sabarimala shrine, told BBC Hindi.

The issue has become increasingly contentious in the run-up to India’s general election, scheduled for April and May.


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