Women's Wall in Kerala: 3 million strong, 620 km long and one big pledge
As the Kerala government prepares to welcome New Year in the state by organising the Women’s Wall or Vanitha Mathil on Tuesday to “protect renaissance values", here is all you need to know about it:
WHAT IS IT?
Around thirty lakh women (the ruling party says 55 lakh) are expected to form a human chain across the National Highway from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram, around 620-kilometre long, extending their support to the state government’s resolve to implement the Supreme Court’s verdict allowing women of all ages access to Sabarimala and to protect the secular and progressive values of Kerala.
Organised by the government and supported by various social organisations having links with the renaissance movement, the Women's Wall is an attempt by the LDF government to defend the state from communal forces following ongoing protests by Hindu conservatives led by the BJP and Congress post the Sabarimala verdict.
[SEE PHOTOS OF THE WOMEN'S WALL HERE]
CM Pinarayi Vijayan appealed to people from all walks of life to join the fight to prevent Kerala from 'becoming a mental asylum' again, referring to Swami Vivekananda's observation about the caste-based discrimination practised in the state.
CM Vijayan announced the initiative on 1 December after a meeting with various Hindu and socio-cultural organisations.
To all the critics he said, "Those who try to malign the image of the party do not have much knowledge of history, as our renaissance leaders and social reformers - Sree Narayana Guru, Chattampi Swamikal, V T Bhattathiripad, Mannathu Padmanabhan - had actively supported the upliftment of women in history. Similarly, the contribution of Muslim renaissance leaders like Makati Thangal, Vakkom Moulavi and Haleema Beevi cannot be forgotten. So also with Akkamma Cherian who was at the forefront of the people’s struggle in Travancore in the pre-independence era."
He also said that the Communists believe women’s liberation is part of social equality, and social inequalities are seen as part of the class struggle.
WATCH OUR WOMAN'S WALL VIDEO HERE |
There will also be a Men’s Wall on the other side of the national highway when the Women’s Wall will be organised.
WHEN IS IT?
On January 1, 2019, the participants will gather at designated centres at 3 pm. Then a rehearsal will happen at 3.30 pm. The Women’s Wall event will take place between 4 and 4.15 pm with the participants taking a pledge. The pledge reads, “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.”
WHO ARE TAKING PART?
The event is organised by the ruling CPI(M), with support from as many as 174 outfits, including social, political, religious, NGOs and women’s organisations. As part of the campaign, 25,000 squads formed to mobilise participants for the event visited 70 lakh houses. As many as 7,000 women’s campaign marches, two-wheeler marches, meetings, renaissance discourses, and other programmes were organised across the state.
Over 200 prominent personalities like writer Dr M Leelavathy, actor KPAC Lalitha, poet Vijayalakshmi, actor Rima Kallingal, Olympian athlete Mercykuttan, boxer KV Lekha, writers Thanooja Bhattathiri and Musemary are expected to be part of the campaign. Other actors taking part include the Women in Cinema Collective members Parvathy Thiruvoth, Remya Nambeesan, Bina Paul and Geethu Mohandas.
Ministers will participate from their respective districts as well.
ALSO READ | Treat Women’s Wall as a celebration: Swami Agnivesh
Actress Manju Warrier withdrew from the event citing its political nature. Writer Sara Joseph backed out of the event saying she would not be part of it till sexual harassment-accused CPI(M) MLA PK Sasi was removed from the party. Dalit activist Sunny M Kapikkad also withdrew his support, criticising the state government for its delay in implementing the top court’s verdict on Sabarimala.
The collection of funds, allegedly even from poor social security pensioners, for the Women’s Wall has cast a shadow on the initiative, putting the organisers, especially the CPM, on the defensive. Many critics have also claimed that the state government is diverting funds meant for flood relief to the Women’s Wall. Initially, it was announced that an amount of Rs 50 crore, earmarked for various women's welfare schemes, would be used for the wall. Vijayan later clarified that not a single penny from the state treasury would be used for the campaign. The expense for holding the Women’s Wall has to be borne by the organisations taking the lead to hold the event, he said.
The government has also been forced to clarify that no government employee will be forced to participate in the event, following reports that Kudumbashree workers were being coerced to take part.
The wall and the CPI-M have been severely criticised by many leaders with Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala calling it a 'communal wall', claiming that only 'progressive Hindu organisations' were invited to take part, and minority organisations were excluded.
The People’s Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA), affiliated to the CPI (Maoist), said the CPM is opportunistic and that the party is also lending support to Hindutva politics just like the BJP and Congress.
Ayyappa Jyothi counter:
On 26th November, to counter the LDF's women's wall, tens of thousands of devotees lined up from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram seeking the protection of traditional customs at Sabarimala. They stood on the state’s arterial highways holding the traditional “elluthiri” lamp in their palms for half an hour starting from 6 pm. BJP state general secretary Sobha Surendran too was part of the line.
Sabarimala Karma Samithi coordinated the event in association with the BJP, RSS and community organisations like the Nair Service Society.
District level information:
Thiruvananthapuram: A total of three lakh women will participate in the capital city, where they will form the wall for a 43.5km stretch from Kadambattukonam to Ayyankali Statue at Vellayambalam.
Malappuram: A total of 1.8 lakh women are expected to participate here, where the wall will be 55-km long, passing through Ramanattukara, Malappuram and Perinthalmanna.
Kozhikode: Three lakh people will participate in the 74-km-long wall here
Kannur: Five lakh women
Wayanad: 35,000 participants will join the campaign in Kozhikode
Kasaragod: One lakh women will form the wall from Kaalikkadavu to Kasaragod taluk office.
Idukki: A total of 45,000 women. The wall passes through Karukutty, Nedumbassery, Chengamanad, Choornikkara, Kumbalam grama panchayats, and Angamaly, Aluva, Kalamassery, Maradu municipalities and Kochi Corporation.
Thrissur: A total of 73 km from Cheruthuruthy to Karukutty will be covered by the campaign
Palakkad: The wall extends to 26 km from Pulamanthol to Cheruthurthy.
Kollam: Three lakh women will participate on a stretch of 58 km from Oachira to Kadambattukonam.
Alappuzha: Four lakh women will form the 97-km human wall from Aroor to Oachira. 60,000 women each from Kottayam and Pathanamthitta will be part of the campaign at Alappuzha.
Ernakulam: Wall will be formed at a stretch of 49 km from Pongam to Aroor with the participation of three lakh women.
Watch the theme song of the Vanitha Mathil here:
(With inputs from Express News Service)