Less than a year after she made history as one of the first women to enter Sabarimala post the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages entry into the shrine, Kanakadurga is now at the centre of a social media misinformation campaign that claims she broke down and repented her actions.
In an interview with HuffPost India, Kanakadurga asserted she had not asked for forgiveness and refuted reports on her “regret”.
Kanakadurga, who is a Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation employee, and Bindu Ammini, a lawyer, were in the spotlight early this year when they entered the Sabarimala temple on January 2, on their second attempt. They had been forced to retreat during their first attempt in December 2018. The visit created much furore in Kerala, which had seen violent protests by right-wing wings and BJP workers following the September 2018 Supreme Court verdict that lifted the temple’s ban on women and girls of reproductive age (10-50). Last week the top court said the verdict would be reviewed by a larger bench, but did not stay its previous order.
Sabarimala opened for its two-month-long Mandalam Makaravilakku season last weekend.
The current, high-decibel fake news campaign against Kanakadurga claims she sought the forgiveness of Sabarimala’s celibate deity Ayyappa for violating his wishes and termed her present ‘isolation’ as his curse.
“Why do I have to repent or ask for forgiveness if I am not making any mistakes? As far as I am concerned, there is not even an iota of regret for the historical pilgrimage to Sabarimala on January 2. Don’t believe the Sangh Parivar propaganda that I gave a television interview saying that I have been facing extreme isolation since the pilgrimage. I never said the claimed isolation was because of the curse of Ayyappa,’’ Kanakadurga told HuffPost India.
“I am an Ayyappa devotee who believes in women rights. I will continue to be one,” she said.
The social media posts quote an interview of Kanakadurga telecasted by BBC’s Tamil service last week. In one clipping from the interview, which is now in circulation, Kanakadurga can be seen weeping.
“It’s true that I wept for a while during one part of the lengthy interview when they asked about my two sons. I have not seen my twins—who study in seventh standard in a school hardly a kilometre away from my home—since March this year. After getting a divorce from me, their father started violating an earlier court order facilitating their stay with me during weekends and holidays. I did not go into any litigation against him as that would affect the mental peace of my children. It’s true that I turned emotional and wept for a while when they (BBC) asked about the children,’’ she said.
According to her, the trouble started after three major online portals in Malayalam carried distorted versions of the BBC interview with their own interpretations.
“It was quite disturbing to see that they stooped to the level of yellow journalism while interpreting the interview in their own ways. They manipulated whatever I said. Then BJP’s Malayalam mouthpiece Janmabhumi took over the campaign and inserted several malicious comments against me in their reports. Finally, the saffron Sangh Parivar brigade started the large scale campaign,’’ she said.
Kanakadurga said BBC’s Tamil service office had clarified to her that they did not distort or misinterpret her interview. She is now considering taking legal action against Janmabhumi and the other three online portals for “twisting facts and showing me in poor light”.
Though upset about not being able to meet her children, Kanakadurga says she did not visit their school to meet to avoid creating a scene or bringing unnecessary focus on them.
She said any woman denied the right to meet her children for eight months would naturally be emotional when asked about it.
“Is my former husband’s disobedience to law and minimum decency a curse of the god? Why should I regret the pilgrimage for lapses on the part of my former husband?’’ Kanakadurga said.
Apart from not being allowed to see her children, Kanakadurga said her former husband and his family were taking care of them and treating them well, so she was not worried.
“I don’t want even a legal fight for their custody. But I will turn emotional whenever I think of them. Why can’t I cry for them? Why can’t I turn emotional? These are all basic rights,’’ she said.
Kanakadurga also rejected claims she had been ‘isolated’ and said she did not feel any loneliness. “It would be better to stay away from those people who often fail to understand you or respect your intentions. So I am happy that my relatives are staying away and my husband managed the divorce. I am happy with my job and the support Kerala society gives. I lead a normal life mingling with friends and travelling to other places on holidays,’’ she said.
Since her Sabarimala visit, Kanakadurga says she has made several close friends who understand her choices and are on the same wavelength. “I travel with them and mingle with them always. They make me happy. In the last ten months, I visited a number of temples and tourist places across South India with my friends. Where is the question of isolation?” she said.