Sabarimala row: Lakhs to form ‘Women’s wall’ in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram | Lakhs of women from various walks of life would be participating in the 620 km-long state-sponsored “Women’s wall” campaign stretching from the northern tip of Kasaragod to the southern end here Tuesday to uphold gender equality and renaissance values.

The “Women’s wall” was conceived in the backdrop of frenzied protests witnessed in the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala after the CPI(M)-led LDF government decided to implement the Supreme Court verdict, allowing all women to pray at the Ayyappa shrine.

While Health minister K K Shylaja would lead the chain at Kasargod, senior CPM leader Brinda Karat would be the last person at the end of the chain in Thiruvananthapuram. Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran told reporters Tuesday that government employees would also be participating in the women’s wall. “Government employees will also be taking part in the initiative.All arrangements are in place in order to avoid traffic snarls in the state,” Surendran said. LDF is expecting over 30 lakh women to take part in the event.

Preparations are almost over as state ministers and district collectors are in charge to make the initiative a big success and all efforts are being made to streamline any hiccups. Schools in some districts have declared holiday in the afternoon while Universities have postponed examinations which were to be held Tuesday amid allegations of misuse of official machinery, which the LDF has denied.

The participants would gather at the designated centers on Tuesday at 3.30 PM, when a rehearsal would be held. The Wall would be formed between 4 and 4.15 PM, with participants taking a pledge to uphold gender equality and renaissance values.

The Women’s wall was suggested at a meeting called by the Kerala government following the massive protests by right-wing parties and a section of devotees over the government’s decision to implement the September 28 apex court order, allowing women of all ages to offer prayers at Sabarimala.

“The protests by communal forces against women’s entry in Sabarimala had prompted the government and other progressive organisations to conceive the idea of a Women’s Wall in the state,” Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan said. Women, cutting across caste and religion, would join the wall “to save Kerala from the being dragged back into the era of darkness, he said. The participants would also be taking a pledge for upholding gender equality and renaissance values.

Though a controversy had erupted following reports that the government had set apart Rs 50 crore for the event, the Chief Minister had categorically denied it saying no government fund would be utilised for the same. The event is being organised by the ruling LDF along with over 176 other socio-political organisations, including the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) and Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha (KPMS). Over 1.25 lakh volunters of the Kudambashree Mission, would also be participating.

Leader of Opposition in the assembly, Ramesh Chennithala, has described the initiative as a ‘wall of contradiction’, while UDF MLA M K Muneer has termed it as a ‘communal’ wall for inviting participation only from ‘progressive Hindu organisations’. The Nair Service Society (NSS), a prominent organization of the upper caste Nair community, and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) are among those who are not participating.

To counter the Women’s wall, thousands of volunteers of Sabarimala Karma Samithi and other right wing groups, BJP and RSS and NSS had lit Ayyappa Jyothies (lighting of sacred lamps) across the state on December 26. Many prominent personalities, including film actors, from all spheres of life are expected to take part in the event.

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