“Bindu and Kanakadurga were determined to offer darshan despite returning midway from trekking following widespread protests on December 24. Meticulous planning was made since they were shifted to a safe place under police protection.”
We decided to use the famous ‘Invisible Gorilla Technique’ to deceive the protestors. We even distracted the attention of police officers camping at Sannidhanam. Only a few of them were aware of the operation. Four trial runs were conducted with dummy pilgrims to analyse the scenario and collect feedback. The mission was executed with such precision that no information was leaked,” said Amore.
Asked about the mission, State Police Chief Loknath Behera said he was not aware of the detailed planning that had gone into the bringing the two women to Sabarimala.
What is Invisible Gorilla Technique
Invisible Gorilla Technique is nothing but creating inattentional blindness, also known as perceptual blindness. This is a psychological lack of attention, that is not associated with any vision defects or deficits. It is a technique in which an individual fails to perceive an unexpected stimulus that is in plain sight.
When it simply becomes impossible for one to attend to all the stimuli in a given situation, a temporary blindness effect can take place as a result; individuals fail to see objects or stimuli that are unexpected and quite often salient.
The term was coined by Arien Mack and Irvin Rock in 1992. It is a psychological phenomenon known as inattentional blindness.
It was ‘The Invisible Gorilla Technique’ and a couple of trial runs conducted by an expert team, which mainly includes a select few police officers, that finally gave the state government the confidence to take the two women — Bindu Ammini and Kanakadurga — to have darshan at Sabarimala on January 2 without falling under the prying eyes of camping protestors at Sannidhanam.
On January 2, 2019, two Kerala women Bindu and Kanakadurga, made history by setting foot in the Sabarimala temple after the Supreme Court allowed women of all ages to enter the place of worship.
They were not the first women to try. Several before them, including well-known activist Trupti Desai, had attempted to enter the temple amidst protests and political wrangling. Four transgender women did enter the temple on December 17 after they were initially blocked, but how did Bindu and Kanakadurga succeed where so many cisgender women had failed? In fact, the two of them had previously attempted to go to the temple on December 24, but had been sent back. So, what was different this time around?
The answer is science. And of course, a great support network.
The state government has been preparing a detailed action plan since December 25 to help the two women offer darshan. Thrissur-based psychologist Prasad Amore , a key member of the team, pitched ‘The Invisible Gorilla Technique’ and mentally prepared them.
Amore says, “Many women had attempted to enter the temple but had failed. The government had taken a stance but was unable to implement it due to various reasons. What we’re seeing is hypermasculinity. It became clear that women cannot go to Sabarimala openly demanding their rights. It was also clear that the government could not take any strict action against the people assembled there. That’s when it became necessary to take a psychological approach.”
After Amore became part of the Facebook group, they would have meetings and at times, phone calls. He facilitated the discussions and helped them work out a strategy.
“I was basically communicating ideas with Shreyas. They (the women) trusted me; some of the plans we didn’t tell even each other in advance,” he says.
Amore goes on to say that the minute it was announced that a woman was going to Sabarimala, the attention of the media would be fully focused on her.
Amore adds that the team had undertaken trial runs with the help of the police, though there was no police protection officially and others in the force were not aware about it.
“But the government did know about it,” he admits.
The trials involved observing the devotees and seeing where their attentions were, taking note of the sensitive areas where people tend to relax and notice things more and what activities they indulge in around such stretches.
Amore says that Bindu and Kanakadurga stayed at an undisclosed location before they embarked on their trip. He joined them from Thrissur before they started on the trek around 1.30 am.
“This is definitely a victory for women,” he says.
Johnson is another person who helped the team reach Sabarimala. It was to his house in Ernakulam that Bindu and Kanakadurga returned after the darshana, and refreshed themselves.
Asked why he decided to support the two women when so many before them had failed, he says, “I felt they were more determined and came across as genuine people.”
Though Bindu and Johnson have several mutual friends (Bindu has Ernakulam connections since she studied Law in the city), they did not know each other before this. Johnson met her and Kanakadurga for the first time after their failed attempt in December. They were admitted to the Kottayam Medical College and he went there to meet them.
“We may have seen each other in some events earlier, but we never became friends. But we met properly in Kottayam and Bindu later called me,” he says.
Johnson is unfazed by the protests.
“Nothing will happen to Sabarimala temple or the faith if women offer prayers there. The devotees have no issue with women entering the temple. It is a problem for the Sangh Parivar and the Nair Service Society only. I don’t have any fear. The people of Kerala are not afraid of the Sangh Parivar. On Thursday, they came out to the streets to protest against the Sangh Parivar, didn’t they?“ he asks.