India: Activist Rehana Fathima arrested
November 28, 2018, 11:07 am

The police on Tuesday arrested Rehana Fathima, 39, an advocate of gender equality and women’s rights, on the charge of having attempted to foment enmity between communities by posting religiously controversial comments and pictures pertaining to the entry of women of all age groups to Sabarimala.

A police team from Pathanamthitta secured the custody of the BSNL employee from her office in Kochi. The Kerala Muslim Jamaat Council had censured her earlier on the charge of hurting Hindu religious sentiments.

The police will produce Ms. Fathima before a magistrate in Pathanamthitta soon. They booked her on the charge of having outraged the religious feelings of a community by insulting their religion under Section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The Section carries a punishment of up to four years of imprisonment with fine or both.

The police said she was arrested on the basis of a complaint lodged by Radhakrishna Menon. He alleged that Ms. Fathima had posted pictures of herself dressed in the typical dark garb of an Ayyappa devotee and captioned the snaps “tatvamasi” hurting Hindu sentiments. Earlier, the High Court had denied Ms. Fathima’s plea for anticipatory bail in the case.

Ms. Fathima, the mother of two children, had courted controversy when she attempted to trek to Sabarimala in the company of Hyderabad-based journalist Kavitha during the puja in October.

A huge posse of police officers in riot gear escorted them within a km of the temple. However, the women had to return in the face of stiff opposition from Sangh Parivar activists.

Ms. Fathima was in the spotlight in 2012 when she championed the “Kiss of Love” movement; a non-violent protest organised largely by apolitical youth against what they described as the tendency of certain groups to police the behaviour of couples in public spaces or “moral vigilantism.”

Ms. Fathima had also challenged social mores by getting women to stage the “tiger dance or pulikali” traditionally performed by men during Onam festival. Her activism had earned her the ire of reactionary elements, who vandalised her house in Kochi recently. She had faced vilification in the social media and life threats.