Sabarimala: BSNL orders compulsory retirement of Rehana Fathima

Kochi: State-run telecommunications company, BSNL, has ordered compulsory retirement of its employee and activist Rehana Fathima, who had attempted to enter the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, for her “intentional” act of outraging the religious feelings of devotees through social media posts.

Fathima, a Telecom technician with the BSNL, was suspended from service following her arrest in November 2018 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through her Facebook posts.

Condemning the decision, the activist said she would challenge the compulsory retirement order issued to her by the company at the appropriate forum.

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Talking to reporters, she alleged political intervention behind the decision.

In its order issued to Fathima, the company said it took the decision after conducting an internal inquiry on her conduct.

The company said there were many agitations against entry of women into the temple during the Sabarimala pilgrimage season in 2018 and during this period, Fathima A S, “being a woman BSNL employee conducted herself in a manner that had resulted in a criminal case being filed against her and her subsequent arrest.”

“An official working in BSNL is always expected to conduct in the best interests of BSNL.

Hence, such acts on the part of Fathima A S are subversive of discipline and amount to misconduct,” the company said in its order issued to Fathima.

“I find that the acts on the part of Fathima were intentional and not accidental,” Deputy General Manager (Tax/ITA and Urban) said in the order.

The activist was arrested in Pathanamthitta in 2018 on a complaint that some of her Facebook posts hurt religious sentiments.

Considering the protest against her by devotees of Lord Ayyappa and BJP activists, the BSNL had earlier transferred her to the Palarivattom telephone exchange in the city where public contact is not required.

A controversy had erupted in Kerala after Fathima made an attempt to enter the Sabarimala temple when it was opened for monthly puja in October, 2018 following the Supreme Court order allowing entry of women in the age group of 10-50.

Fathima, who was also part of the ‘Kiss of Love’ movement in Kochi in 2014 against alleged moral policing, was among the two women who had reached the hilltop on October 19 but had to return before reaching the sanctum sanctorum due to massive protests by Ayyappa devotees.

Fathima and Hyderabad-based journalist Kavitha were taken to the hills under heavy police protection.

On September 28, 2018 the apex court had lifted the centuries-old ban on the entry of women of menstrual age into the shrine.

The decision was challenged by devotees.

The Supreme Court has formed a nine-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde to hear the issue of allowing women and girls of all ages to enter Sabarimala temple, along with the other contentious issues of alleged discrimination against Muslim and Parsi women.

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