Lakhs of women assembled under the aegis of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) on Tuesday to create an almost unbroken human wall that stretched 620 km from Kasaragod in north Kerala to Thiruvananthapuram in the south.
Perhaps, the only jarring gap in the wall of women was at Chettukundu in Kasaragod where suspected 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. Suspected BJP workers attacked police officers, journalists, passersby and damaged vehicles.
Women from all walks of life participated in the programme, which the LDF had posited as a political counter to Hindu right-wing forces opposed to the entry of women to Sabarimala.
Senior 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 and the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam 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 ranaisance principles to insulate society against revanchist forces that sought to push Kerala back to the dark ages of casteism and discriminatory religious practices.
The wall of women was not without discord and, if anything, starkly underscored the fault lines of Kerala society.
NSS general secretary 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 Vellappally Natesan said the wall was a riposte to those who sought to turn Kerala into a “madhouse” of caste-based discrimination.
Health Minister K.K. Shylaja and Brinda Karat, general secretary of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), held either end of the human wall in Kasaragod and Thiruvananthapuram respectively. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Administrative Reforms Commission chairperson V.S. Achuthanandan witnessed the wall in the capital. KPMS president Punnala Sreekumar and Mr. Natesan also participated.