Bindu Ammini, the women’s rights activist from Kerala, who made headlines after entering the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala Temple in 2019, was assaulted by a stranger, allegedly a right-wing supporter, at the Kozhikode North Beach on Wednesday (January 5).
A video of the assault that has been doing the rounds on social media shows a man pinning down Bindu by her neck and trying to bang her head onto a concrete slab on the road.
Bindu said she had gone to a lawyer’s office at Vellayil near Kozhikode beach, along with two women, when the attacker intercepted them. After an altercation, he attacked her physically. Bindu alleged that the man was from a Hindu right-wing group.
Muneer, the lawyer who Bindu went to meet just before the attack told The Federal that the man was a local person whom he knows. Muneer, who witnessed the attack, was the only person who was seen in the video to be trying to prevent the assailant.
“This is a locality where the BJP and RSS have a strong footing. The man is a local guy whom I know as one connected with the Hindu right-wing groups,” Muneer said.
Police, however, have not confirmed any such political connection yet.
This is the third such attack on Bindu since she entered the Sabarimala shrine on January 2, 2019.
On December 18 last year, Bindu suffered serious injuries after being hit by an auto-rickshaw while on her way back home at West Hill in Kozhikode. She had stitches on her nose and lips. Bindu alleged that it was not an accident because the way the auto-rickshaw hit her, clearly proved otherwise. Though the police filed a case for murder attempt under section 307 of IPC, no arrests have been made in the case as yet.
On November 26, 2019, a group of Hindu right-wing activists attacked Bindu and sprayed chilli powder on her face. The incident happened right in front of the office of the City Police Commissioner in Kochi. Only one person was arrested in connection with this incident. Bindu alleged that the police have conducted a very poor investigation in the case.
Bindu is one of two women who entered the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala Temple in January, 2019, soon after the Supreme Court, in a highly-controversial judgment, allowed women in the menstruating to enter the temple.
Following this, the Supreme Court issued a protection order under which the government was supposed to provide cops to ensure the safety of Bindu.
However, while Bindu has been attacked not only once, but thrice during the pendency of this order, the police have withdrawn the woman police officer entrusted with protecting her, just weeks prior to the second attack. This came after Bindu filed a complaint against the woman officer for harassing her by controlling her movement and using harsh words against her.
“In response to my complaint to the DGP, the local police withdrew the protection given to me on the order by the Supreme Court,” Bindu said. She was hit by the auto-rickshaw a few days after the withdrawal of the cops on duty.
Police encouraging right-wing criminals, allege activists
Activists in Kerala have accused police of looking the other way when it comes to cases of assault on Bindu.
“We all believe that the police is encouraging right-wing criminals by not acting properly on the complaints filed by her. In all the three incidents of assault, we can see that the police have not conducted a thorough investigation and thus failed to bring all the people involved to the course of law,” says Sreeja Neyyattinkara, a gender right activist at Thiruvananthapuram.
In addition to the repeated incidents of physical assault, Bindu is often subjected to cyberbullying as well. A few months back, a morphed sleaze video featuring her, allegedly made by right-wing handles, circulated on social media, but no action has been taken by police on her complaint so far.
“Followed by Bindu’s participation in the farmer’s struggle in Delhi, another incident of cyberbullying happened, all by right-wing handles. Her mother who lives in Pathanamthitta was threatened by goons and Bindu has filed a complaint about that too. No one has been arrested yet,” says Sreeja.
“It is a shame that the life of a Dalit woman who upheld the honour and self-respect of Kerala’s women by entering the temple, is under threat in this state,” says Asha Unnithan, a lawyer and a gender right activist.
“Kerala will not tolerate this criminalism,” Dr R Bindu, the Minister for Higher Education said in her Facebook post while commenting on the incident. “This does not arise from religious belief, but this is simply the aggressive fascist attitude to finish off dissenting voices,” she said.
Dr Bindu has also warned that the government will have zero tolerance for those who believe they can silence voices of dissent, especially from women, through abuse.