A sea of women rose in Kerala in what is being touted as the beginning of a new feminist politics - visible, vibrant, and untamed. The roads stretching from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram was a hive of activity as lakhs of women - from commoners to politicians and celebrities - came together to take part in the Kerala government’s Women’s Wall on January 1. An event organised to show the state’s commitment to renaissance values and improve the status of women in society, in the wake of protests against Supreme Court’s historic verdict allowing women of all ages entry into Sabarimala.
CPI (M) politburo member Brinda Karat started the chain at Vellayambalam in Thiruvananthapuram as other women stood in line, inches apart, stretching all the way to Kasargode, covering 620 kilometre- passing through all districts across the state.
In what is being seen as a defining moment for feminist politics in Kerala, leaders and members from political parties, socio-political organisations and progressive Hindu organisations, too, joined the event. There were men, too, who stood up in support and solidarity, affirming their commitment to gender equality. While women and girls formed the chain on one side, a corresponding wall of men, supporting renaissance values, was also formed opposite the Women’s Wall.
Organised by the ruling CPI(M), the Women’s Wall featured members from more than 176 other socio-political organisations, including the CPI, Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) and Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha (KPMS). On the main stage in Thiruvananthapuram, Left leaders Annie Raja and KK Shailaja stood along with top women bureacurats and police officers like Thiruvananthapuram Collector K Vasuki, Additional Chief Secretary Asha Thomas, Principal Secretary (Education) Usha Titus, Chandhini IPS and Sheela Thomas. Dalit activist Dhanya Raman, Dr Radhika, artist Vindhu Vincent, dubbing artist Bhagyalakshmi, TV star and chef Lakshmi Nair were also on stage.
The event comes in the wake of the strong opposition to the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages entry into the Sabarimala temple.
After a trial run, the event commenced at 4 pm. During the 15-minute event, the participants made a pledge, which read: “We are taking the pledge that we will uphold Renaissance values, we will stand for equality for women, we resist the attempts to make Kerala a lunatic asylum, and we will fight for secularism.”
Calling it a “historic gathering”, Brinda Karat said, “Very often, religious beliefs and sentiments have been employed to use women in subordinate positions. Today, dear sisters, you have made history. You have resisted against the dark forces that want to push women back into the dark ages. You have built the wall of resilience to take forward the values of social reforms, which are critical for women’s advancement in 21st century. Kerala, you have moved ahead, not only for the women of Kerala but for the women across India.
“Swami Vivekananda once called Kerala a 'lunatic asylum'. But, today, Kerala is seen as the most advanced and developed state because of the communist and progressive movements here. Today, Kerala, with its history of social reforms and the contemporary struggles, stands as the first state in every aspect of human development,” she added.