At about 9 am on Friday, when the DH team reached Pampa, conversations among the devotees were invariably drifting to “the two women” who took the uphill trek to the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple.
Their ethnicity and religion were also points of debate among the devotees; some of them were also heard asking those returning after the darshan, “Swami, did they manage to reach the temple?” Kavitha Jakkala (24) and Rehana Fathima (32) did not; they were stopped near the nadappanthal (the pilgrims’ walkway about 500 metres from the sannidhanam).But the image of them walking uphill — Kavitha in riot gear provided by the police and Rehana, wearing black and carrying the irumudikettu (the two-part kit pilgrims carry to the shrine) — is defining enough.
Kavitha Jakkala, a journalist with Telugu news network Mojo TV, arrived at Pampa with a male colleague, late on Thursday night. She is reported to have sought protection from the police for her trek to the shrine and was advised to wait till Friday morning.
Kavitha is reported as a native of Nalgonda district of Telangana. Local media reported that she started her career as a news anchor in the Telugu channel 10 TV.
Initial reports said she had specifically sought permission from the police to report from the sannidhanam. Before her trek, however, she told reporters that she was heading to the shrine to exercise her rights facilitated by the Supreme Court through its historic September 28 judgement. After her aborted trek, she said she was prepared to go till the sannidhanam but returned because she did not want children harmed in the commotion which followed the protests.
In March this year, Kochi-based Rehana Fathima drew praise and outrage when she posted pictures of herself covering her bare breasts with watermelons — the response was to a college professor who compared students’ breasts with watermelons.
In a Facebook post on October 17 in connection with “abusive” devotees in Sabarimala, she remembers all the trolls and abuses she herself had faced.
Unidentified men vandalised her Kochi home after she commenced her trek to the shrine. A telecom technician at BSNL, Rehana is a mother of two. Her Facebook profile says she is in an open relationship with Manoj K. Sreedhar, a film professional. On her profile, her introduction says ‘Break the Rules’.
Rehana has continued to divide opinion with her stand on many issues, including her role in the 2014 Kiss of Love campaign. The BSNL Kerala Telecom Circle issued a clarification that Rehana alone was responsible for her activities outside the office.
“I wanted to continue the trek but dropped the plan after they (protesters) used children as a front. I see that as cowardice,” Rehana said.