Kerala is not fit to live in: Bindu Ammini

One move that would flip her life upside down was the daring act of entering the Sabarimala temple.
Bindu Ammini. (Photo | Bindu Ammini Facebook)
Bindu Ammini. (Photo | Bindu Ammini Facebook)


“It is definitely more than that,” says Bindu Ammini. 

We were trying to figure out how many houses Bindu has lived in. She listed every house she has lived in -- from the one she was born into to the one she is vacating now to head for Delhi. 

Bindu is a Dalit lawyer, lecturer and activist based out of Kerala. She is moving to Delhi because she has decided Kerala, the state where she lived all her life, is not fit to live in. Bindu's is an eventful life of struggle and resistance.

One move that would flip her life upside down was the daring act of entering the Sabarimala temple. By stepping into the temple, Bindu entered a Kerala none of us could experience or endure. 

Bindu was born into a Dalit family in Kollam. The family had to undergo the trauma caused by caste discrimination. Bindu’s parents separated when she was only five. Her mother was forced to leave her dad. Her mother took Bindu along when she moved to a house in Pathanamthitta. Thereon they shifted houses several times. 

“When I was in Std VI, I had already studied in eight schools,” Bindu quips. 

She completed her pre-degree and joined Malappuram polytechnic college. It is during this period she joined CPI-ML (Kanu Sanyal). It was then, when Bindu was only 18 in 1996, that she was arrested in a fake case, she recalls.

Bindu had filed a police complaint against some CPI(M) supporters, who lived in her colony, after they persistently harassed her. The police did not act on the complaint. 

She had gone to the office of the Superintendent of Police (SP) to enquire about her complaint and about a case relating to a girl's murder. The girl was killed and thrown into a well.

Bindu had gone to the office of the SP with two advocates owing allegiance to the Stree Vedi, an outfit led by K Ajitha, a former Naxal leader. Vijayamma, one of the advocates, was stopped by the SP. 

“Their plan was to arrest us all and make it a big issue. But the advocates protested and stopped that from happening,” Bindu recalls. 

Since they could not arrest them on that day, Bindu was later arrested in a fake case. “They had created a fake case by saying that I broke someone’s tooth. It was SP Sreelekha IPS' plan,” says Bindu.  

Bindu was kept in police custody the whole night, from where escaped. She was remanded to Pathanamthitta the sub-jail on the same day in connection to the 'fake case' mentioned above.

That was the first bitter fruit that the outspoken Bindu tasted. 

Bindu remained to be an active member of CPI-ML from 1997 to 2010. She participated in several strikes and spearheaded campaigns for justice. She was the state secretary of the party in 2009. And then, she left the party. 

"Why did you leave the party?", I ask.

“The party was patriarchal", comes the reply.

"We can notice patriarchy in all the so-called Communist parties. I had to take care of my personal life too. So I left the party. I stayed away from everything.” 

To enrol in the LLM course, Bindu went to the Munsif magistrate exam coaching centre in Thiruvananthapuram. But she could not afford to stay in the hostel. In an attempt to look for housing, she wrote Kerala University’s LLM entrance test.

“I thought I will get a hostel. That is why I wrote the entrance exam for Kerala University’s LLM course. But once I reached there, studies became my first priority. After the first semester, I qualified for NET. I did not go for the Munsif magistrate exam. Right after I completed the course, I got a temporary job and even now I am teaching in different colleges,” she says.  

Then came the Sabarimala verdict. In 2018, the Supreme Court ordered that all pilgrims regardless of gender can enter the temple. In 2019, Bindu Ammini and Kanaga Durga became the first women to enter the Sabarimala temple. 

“Entering the Sabarimala temple was not a collective decision. I was not influenced by anyone. It was instinctive. I wanted to do it. Only after deciding that I want to go to Sabarimala, did I get introduced to another team,” she says. 

Bindu stepped into the temple, respecting the Constitution and the rule of law. And in a land that goes by the rule of fascism, Bindu's adherence to the rule of law did not sit well. She faced nothing but hatred, attacks and violence after the Sabarimala incident, while the state watched. 

“I was treated as if I had broken the law,” she says. 

Bindu Ammini was ostracized by the state. She was no more invited to workshops, programmes and seminars. She was not informed of such programmes. 

“The Gender Park is 500 metres from the college I work at, yet I cannot go there, even as a participant. I was sidelined by the state,” she says. 

She says her focus on Ambedkarism became stronger after the Sabarimala event. When I asked her how she was introduced to Ambedkarism, she says, “Through my life. Dalits and tribal people come across Ambedkar in so many instances of their life.” 

Bindu was given police protection after the Sabarimala episode. However, it turned out to be a namesake ritual.

“Two people walk beside me. That is all,” she says. 

She was attacked in many instances. She was attacked in front of the commissioner's office. Someone had tried to kill her while she was in an auto-rickshaw. She was attacked at the beach. All the attacks happened when she had police protection.

“No proper measures to punish the attackers were taken. No proper investigations and no follow-ups,” she says. 

Shops denied her groceries. Buses won’t stop for her. 

“I cannot even get on a bus that is stopped, because it would have been owned by RSS supporters,” she says. 

The state did not intervene to control this. Her immediate family asks her why she is not looking after her husband and her kid. Those who claim to be progressive ask this too, she says. 

“Progressive people and liberals, we sorta expect them to support us. But they don’t. Most seniors make sure that newcomers get no space. They isolate people like me,” she says. 

Bindu does not have any regrets. Her conviction is strong. 

“When I was pepper sprayed, I was detained in a small room in a hospital with no facilities at all. They say they were trying to protect me, how come the attackers are not locked up and I am locked up? Shouldn’t they be arrested and put in jail?” she asks. 

Bindu is all set to leave for Delhi. 

“It is a protest. Protest against the state. It is a statement that I cannot live in Kerala,” Bindu says talking about her decision to leave Kerala. 

Bindu is leaving her 16-year-old daughter behind in Kerala. 

“Would you not miss her ?” I ask. 

“Olga is sixteen. She is understanding. She has her own passion and she looks after herself. I will support and provide for her in all the ways I can and if she is interested in coming to Delhi after she completes her twelfth standard, I will take her to Delhi,” she says. 

“Will you not miss home?” 

“I will not. I will do my best wherever I am,” she says. 

Bindu will be associating with Dalit Times, a Delhi-based digital media channel that works for the representation of the oppressed. She says her primary support system is in Delhi now. Even though people from the Ambedkarite movement in Kerala do not offer physical help, they give moral support she says. 

“It is not for the help or support of the people I become a part of their organisations. It is about my values and beliefs.” 

“How did the CPI(M) help you?”  

“ After the Sabarimala incident, CPI(M) supported me. DYFI helped me rent a house,” she answers.

“I read in a report that you had mentioned CPI(M) withdrew their support - Kai vittutaanga apdingrathu mathri (Like they let go of your hand)?”  

“I did not say that. But we can't really say that. Kai vittu ennu parayaan ennai kai pidichittilla (We can't say they let go of my hand as they never held my hand),” Bindu says.

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