India: repeated attacks against woman human rights defender, Ms. Bindu Ammini (joint communication)

The following is based on a communication written by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and other UN experts to the Government of India on 9 February 2022. The communication remained confidential for 60 days before being made public, during which time the Government was expected to respond. The Government did not respond during this period, and any reply, if sent, will be available on the UN communications database.

This is a shorter version of the original communication.

Read the full communication

BACKGROUND

Topic: the alleged repeated attacks against woman human rights defender, Ms. Bindu Ammini, due to her attempts and successes in entering the Sabarimala Temple.

Ms. Bindu Ammini is a Dalit minority woman human rights defender, lawyer, professor and feminist activist from Kerala. She is one of the first two women between the ages of 10 and 50 years old to enter the Sabarimala Temple after the Indian Supreme Court decision, which allowed women of reproductive age to enter the temple. She was also part of the farmers’ protests at the Ghazipur border, which have been ongoing since November 2020.

ALLEGATIONS

On 22 December 2018, after the Supreme Court decision allowing the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50 into the Sabarimala Temple, Ms. Ammini and three other women attempted to go to Sabarimala Temple but were stopped by protesters. Ms. Ammini and the three women went on hunger strike to protest the alleged lack of police protection afforded to them.

On 2 January 2019, Ms. Ammini successfully entered the Sabarimala Temple, but was subsequently forced to go into hiding. Her house was allegedly raided by people associated with Sabarimala Karma Samiti and other organisations, in retaliation for her entering the Temple. On 18 January 2019, the Supreme Court ordered the authorities to grant full protection round the clock to Ms. Ammini.

In November 2019, the Supreme Court organised for the case to be reviewed by a larger bench. The Kerala government then allegedly withdrew its support and police protection for women entering the Temple, pending the decision of the Supreme Court. Ms. Ammini and other activists reportedly went to the Ernakulam City Commissioner’s Office in late November 2019 to seek police protection to visit the shrine again. Ms. Ammini was allegedly attacked by pepper spray outside of the Commissioner’s Office, after which she was hospitalized.

On 18 December 2021, Ms. Ammini was reportedly attacked in a hit-and-run incident by an autorickshaw at approximately 9:45PM in Kozhikode, and suffered severe injuries to her head, mouth and teeth. There is reason to believe that this was a planned attack on her by persons associated with right-wing political groups. After the attack, Ms. Ammini was taken to the Kozhikode Medical Hospital and she received several stitches on her lips. On 19 December 2021, police authorities registered a FIR (1392/2021) under sections IPC 324 (voluntarily causing hurt through use of a dangerous weapon) and 307 (attempt to commit murder) in the Koyilandy police station.
However, no arrests have been made to date. There have since allegedly been other such attacks on Ms. Ammini’s life.

CONCERNS

In the communication we expressed our serious concerns regarding what appears to be deliberate, sustained and gender-based attacks against Ms. Bindu Ammini and her life. We are deeply concerned by the numerous alleged attacks against her life and at what may be coordinated attempts to further intimidate and threaten her, by unknown individuals allegedly associated with Sabarimala Karma Samiti and other organisations, in retaliation to her entering Sabarimala Temple. The intimidation of and attacks against Ms. Ammini are particularly concerning, as they appear to be in direct retaliation for her exercising her right to freedom of religion, constituting a violation of international human rights law and standards. We further conveyed our concern regarding the Kerala government withdrawing its support and police protection for women entering Sabarimala Temple, pending the decision of the Supreme Court. Such lack of protection further puts the lives of women attempting to enter the Temple at risk. We urge the Government of India to pressure the Kerala government to indefinitely reinstate police protection for women entering Sabarimala Temple

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