January 1, 2019
This event comes few days after thousands of devotees lit Ayyappa Jyothis (lamps) & lined up from Hosangadi in Kasargod to Kanyakumari, vowing to protect “the age-old customs & traditions of Sabarimala”.
Thousands of women apparently united by shared indignation against “Hindu right-wing inspired” misogyny assembled under the aegis of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) on Tuesday to create an almost unbroken human wall that stretched for 620 km from Kasargode in North Kerala to Thiruvananthapuram in the South.
Perhaps, the only jarring gap in the ‘wall of women’ was at Chettukundu in Kasargod where persons suspected to be Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers unleashed violence against those who tried to line-up on the road. The police fired tear gas shells to subdue the mob.
The street gangs in Kasargod attacked Police Officers, journalists, passers-by & damaged vehicles. Law enforcers have diverted traffic away from the spot, which continued to be a conflict zone late into the evening.
Across Kerala, women from all walks of life participated in the programme, which the LDF had posited as a political counter to what they call as the extremely anti-democratic position on gender equality propounded by the broad alliance of Hindu right-wing forces opposed to the entry of women to Sabarimala.
The wall was also widely viewed as a sharp retort to the BJP-backed “Ayyappa Jyothi” campaign on 26th December.
Elderly women, homemakers, women clad in hijabs, lawyers, transwomen, actors, artists, doctors, teachers, students, authors, civil servants, unskilled workers, government employees, members of social organisations such as the Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha (KPMS) & the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) congregated alongside National Highways.
They stood shoulder to shoulder for 15 minutes after 4 p.m. to form a human wall with few apparent cracks in the line.
The programme ended with a joint pledge to harness the power of Enlightenment principles to insulate society against revanchist forces that sought to push Kerala back to the dark ages of casteism & discriminatory religious practices.
The wall of women wasn’t without discord & if anything, starkly underscored the fault lines of Kerala society.
The general secretary of the Nair Service Society (NSS), G. Sukumaran Nair, said that the wall would transform Kerala into a “devil’s own” country riven by social strife. The NSS had opposed the wall.
SNDP general secretary Vellapally Natesan said the wall was a riposte to those who sought to turn Kerala into a “madhouse” of caste-based discrimination.
Mr. Nair criticized Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan for intervening in matters of faith while Mr Natesan defended the Govt’s stance on fighting revanchist forces.
Health Minister K. K. Shailaja & Brinda Karat, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), held either end of the human chain in Kasargod & Thiruvananthapuram respectively.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Administrative Reforms Commission chairperson V. S. Achuthanandan witnessed it in the capital. Kerala Pulayar Mahasabha (KPMS) president Punnala Sreekumar & Mr Natesan also participated.