A photograph of an SFI rally in Malappuram has drawn flak for the student political outfit on social media. The picture shows male leaders of the SFI, striding at the head of the rally, while women wearing Kerala sarees walk on their sides holding the banner and decorative umbrellas for the men.
Students Federation of India (SFI) State Secretary M Vijin is among the men striding along raising slogans in the rally held on September 27.
Soon after the picture hit social media, it was eagerly picked up critics of the SFI and the Left, who slammed the SFI for talking about gender equality but stereotyping women with gendered roles in the procession.
Thrithala Congress MLA VT Balram wrote on Facebook, “Revolutionary male leaders are walking along waving their hands. Female comrades wear sarees and hold decorative umbrellas for them. All my wishes for the SFI rally and meeting. Let topics like gender equality be discussed in their state meet.”
Others mocked the rally as looking more like a temple procession than a political march taken out by student Communists.
One Facebook post said, “When I saw the golden silk and decorative umbrellas I thought it was a welcome party for some godmen. Later, I understood that it was the rally of the revolutionary student organisation. Pity!”
However, the SFI hit back at critics by accusing them of misrepresenting the event, and cherry-picking pictures that gave a wrong impression of what was going on.
To prove his point, Vijin shared pictures from SFI rallies in other districts, where male comrades held umbrellas while women led marches and shouted slogans.
About the attire worn by the women in the picture, Vijin shared photographs of Muslim SFI members in other rallies, dressed in lungi, vest and headscarf, and pointed out that many of their male comrades also often participate in political rallies in traditional attire.
Accusing Balram and others of selectively portaying the rally, Vijin also said in his Facebook post that the welcome given to the rally at a college in Malappuram had involved a number of cultural elements, including dance performances.
“To welcome the procession, many art forms like Theyyam, Vattapattu, Daffumuttu, Kolkkali and Chenda Melam were performed. Alongside this, decorative umbrellas had also been arranged. Besides women, men also held the umbrellas. There were women leaders who led the march and shouted slogans. VT Balram did not see any of them,” Vijin writes.
The SFI leader also hit back at the Congress MLA with a reminder that there were leaders in Congress party who made other people remove their footwear for them. Former speaker N Shakthan, was recently criticised for making a man help him remove his slippers.
Vijin advised Balram to teach his own party (Congress) members lessons in etiquette, before venturing to give lectures to the SFI.