The BSNL has ordered compulsory retirement of rights activist Rehana Fathima whose attempt to enter the Sabarimala temple in 2018 following a Supreme Court order had triggered a huge controversy.
Fathima, a Telecom technician with the BSNL in Kochi, has been asked to leave the company as an internal inquiry committee found that she had intentionally outraged the religious feelings of devotees through social media posts.
Fathima had been under suspension from service for the past 18 months following her arrest in November 2018 for allegedly hurting religious sentiments through her Facebook posts.
Challenging the action, Fathima said she would contest it at the Central Administration Tribunal as well as the Kerala High Court.
“I had anticipated the dismissal after they extended my suspension by six months. I could feel it from the way the inquiry was proceeding,” Fathima told Onmanorama on Thursday, a day after she received the order.
She said the action against her was part of the Sangh Parivar's agenda. “Soon after the Sabarimala row, several people had written to the BSNL demanding my dismissal,” she said.
The inquiry panel found that Fathima's acts were subversive of discipline and amounted to misconduct.
Being a woman BSNL employee, Fathima “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. 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.
Fathima told Onmanorama that she was convinced that she had not done anything wrong. “The Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all age groups to go to Sabarimala is still valid. The order does not say a person with a Muslim name should not go to Sabarimala. Nor does it say that a BSNL employee should not go there,” she said.
Asked about the criticism that by trying to enter the temple activists were provoking the Sangh Parivar and helping them make inroads into Kerala, she said waiting more for the apex court order to be implemented would have been similar to the 'Ready to Wait' campaign. The social media campaign was run by women who said they were ready to wait till 50 years of age to go to the temple as they respected its customs and traditions.
Fathima said she just happened to be a prey for the people who wanted to play vote bank politics with Sabarimala.
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.
(With inputs from PTI)