Meet the Sabarimala 'warriors': Rehana & Kavitha

Rehana Fathima (L) and Kavitha Jakkala (R)

Rehana Fathima and Kavitha Jakkala, two women activists, almost entered the history books by becoming the first women to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum (Sannidhanam) of the Sabarimala temple, since the Supreme Court verdict delivered in September of this year allowed women entry into the temple. 

Walking side by side and clad in protective gear, the two were just metres away from the sacred shrine. However, they ultimately decided to abort the attempt to enter the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple after an hourlong discussion with police and protesters.

It was also reported that in retaliation for their attempt to enter the temple, Fathima's house was ransacked by Hindu devotees
 
Their courage to take the first steps on behalf of countless women makes one curious to know who these women really are and their motivation to take on such a crusade at great personal risk. 

Who is Kavitha Jakkala? 
 
Kavitha Jakkala is a woman in her mid-20s and works as a television journalist in Hyderabad. According to Mathrubhumi, she completed her higher education from AECT College and Deepthi Junior College and then started her career as a news anchor at 10TV. 

She is currently a journalist at the Telugu MOJO TV, on behalf of whom she entered Sabarimala. She has made it clear that she is not a devotee and is only attempting to enter the temple as part of her job. 

Speaking to the channel that she works for, her husband, Viplav Kumar expressed joy over his wife’s efforts. "She is bold. She will achieve her target," he said, according to Bangalore Mirror

Who is Rehana Fathima?

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Rehana Fathima is controversy’s favourite child. Her Facebook bio section says simply, ‘Break the rules’. And she certainly lives up to the description. 

Born to an orthodox Muslim family, she claims to have been disillusioned with religion after her father’s death. “I used to wear the hijab and do namaz five times a day,” she told TOI in an interview in which it was revealed that she had shunned the hijab. 

Rehana, a mother-of-two, currently works as a telecom technician for BSNL. Her activities outside the office are the ones that seem to be grabbing the headlines as she has been focusing on breaking stereotypes. 
 
She became infamous earlier this year when she posed topless and covered her breasts with watermelons. She did so because she was protesting against a misogynistic statement made by a Kerala professor who reportedly described students’ breasts as watermelons and chided women for not covering up. Facebook had to reportedly take down her pictures and suspend her account due to the furore of trolls and threats that followed after she posted the pictures. 
 
As she got more attention and began being profiled, it seemed that Rehana was the constant rebel. Four years ago, she participated in the Kiss of Love protest in Kochi. Her husband, filmmaker Manoj K Sreedhar, had shared a clip of the kiss on Facebook. 

She has also acted in an art film named Eka which focused on intersexuality. The posters of the film read: ‘I am intersex. I have a penis and vagina by birth. I want to live’.  

She was also among the first women to take part in the traditional Onam tiger dance known as Thrissur Pulikali as it is usually done by an all-male troupe. 
 

ulikali, is a celebration during Onam where people dress up, usually with tiger body painting and masks.  Above is a woman (Rehana Fathima) with body art with her male colleagues celebrating the festival of Hinduism in the streets of Kerala. Wikicommons
Pulikali, is a celebration during Onam where people dress up, usually with tiger body painting and masks.
Above is a woman (Rehana Fathima) with body art with her male colleagues celebrating the festival of Hinduism in the streets of Kerala.

Her motivation to reach Sabarimala seems to be more than rebellion though. Rehana has argued that her entry would be a statement on equality for women. “I don’t understand why people make such a hue and cry about a woman’s body...I wanted to question the restrictions regarding a woman baring her body...men and women are held to different standards,” Rehana said

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Meet the Sabarimala 'warriors': Rehana & Kavitha

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