Thiruvananthapuram: The 620-km 'Women's Wall', which came up mostly along the western edge of the state, looked solid all through except for its northern tip that was damaged by violence.
Clashes between BJP and CPM workers at Chettukund on the way to Bekal prevented women from forming a wall in the area, which fell in the final northern stretch between Kanhangad and Kasaragod. The CPM alleged that BJP workers had set fire to the grasslands on either side of the highway making it impossible for women to form the wall in the area. Police had to hurl grenades to disperse the crowd.
While social justice minister K K Shylaja stood at the northern end of the 'Wall', CPM politburo member Brinda Karat was at its southern edge. Most of the speakers at the meetings held simultaneously across the state right after the wall was formed were women. A message that the 'Wall' was not government sponsored but only had its backing was also sought to be send. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, though he was on the dais in Thiruvananthapuram, did not make a public speech. He, with V S Achuthanandan on his side, was a silent spectator to what was happening. The most political of speeches on the day was delivered by SNDP Yogam general secretary Vellapally Natesan in Alappuzha. He tore into his NSS counterpart Sukumaran Nair, and also opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala whom he called the most casteist politician in the state. Significantly, he was silent about the BJP or Sangh Parivar forces.
The government had earlier claimed that 50 lakh women would be part of the wall. This would have meant that 30 percent of the total women population in the state, including those over 70 and those below 18, would have taken part -- a figure most consider an impossibility. However, experts peg the figure at somewhere between 15 to 20 lakh.
Women from all walks of life stood on the side of the National Highway that runs from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram and took a pledge at 4 am. After standing for 15 minutes, the women dispersed.
Last month, amid the row over the Sabarimala pilgrimage, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sent out invites to social groups and it was decided to form the "women wall" so that Kerala does not become "a lunatic asylum".
The other objective of the event was to promote gender equality.
At the northern end, the first on the line was Health Minister K K Shailaja. At the extreme south was CPI-M politburo member Brinda Karat.
Later, addressing a public meeting here, Karat congratulated the women of Kerala for creating history.
"This wall is just not for Kerala but for all the women in the country," she said.
Shailaja said, "After a few days of the announcement about this wall, we started to get numerous calls from women asking where they should stand. It has been a huge success from the way women participated."
Joining the human chain were women from all walks of life including film industry, writers and academics.
"This has got nothing to do with the entry of women into Sabarimala. That's a different issue. We came to take part because we wanted to send out the message of gender equality," a woman who took part in Thrissur said.
But the Congress-led opposition condemned the 'women wall', saying it will only whip up communal passions.
While the Nair Service Society (NSS), which represents the Hindu Nair community, had announced that they will not take part in the event, the SNDP Yogam - the social movement of the Hindu Ezhava community - took part in good numbers.
"We thank the Kerala government for allowing us to take part in this event as this is a record breaking event," said Preethi Natesan, wife of SNDP Yogam General Secretary Vellappallyi Natesan.
Support from London too
A human chain was formed in London in support of the Women's Wall. Hundreds of people took part in the event outside the High Commission of India central London on Monday. Left outfits, writers and Keralite Labour Party members organised the event in the UK.
Ensuring gender equality
The proposed wall was suggested at a meeting called by the Kerala government in the backdrop of frenzied protests by right-wing parties and a section of devotees over the state's decision to implement the September 28 apex court order, allowing women of all ages into Sabarimala.
"Finding a solution to the issues faced by women is seen as part of the class struggle,"Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Monday, adding that ensuring gender equality was part of class struggle.
In Marxist ideology, class struggle is the conflict of interests between workers and the ruling class in a capitalist society.
"The protests by communal forces against women's entry in Sabarimala prompted the government and other progressive organisations to build Women's Wall in the state," Pinarayi had said, adding that all women, cutting across castes and religions, would join the wall "to save Kerala from the being dragged back into the era of darkness."
The Universal Records Forum, the team which records amazing feats across the globe, is also understood to have reached the state to witness the exercise.
The pledge for the women's wall, which was released by the Chief Ministers office Sunday, calls for upholding gender equality and renaissance values.
It also bats for secularism and to oppose the move to turn the state into a 'lunatic asylum.'
Not by the govt?
The state government had initially claimed that it would extend all support to the proposed wall, it withdrew the order, allotting funds for it, after a controversy erupted.
CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan on Tuesday claimed that the wall was not being organised by the government.
"The government merely supported a decision taken by various outfits. PRD campaigned for it. There is nothing wrong in it.
"It is not the government but the organising committee that is taking care of the finances," he added.
Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that even the government officials would take part in the event. He added that precautions have been taken to avoid traffic blocks.
SNDP Yogam general secretary Vellappally Natesan flayed NSS chief Sukumaran Nair for opposing the wall.
While senior Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala has described the initiative as a 'wall of contradiction', UDF MLA M K Muneer had has termed it as a 'communal' wall for inviting participation only from 'progressive Hindu organisations'.
Meanwhile, a bus that was to ferry participants was attacked in Muthalamada in Palakkad. The front window glass were shattered in the attack. Both the driver and the cleaner were sleeping in the bus during the time of the attack.
The government has spared no effort to make the wall a huge success with all ministers given charge of either a district or a particular place for the success of the event.
The event is organised by the ruling CPI(M), along with over 176 other socio-political organisations, including the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) and Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha (KPMS).
The Nair Service Society (NSS), RSS and the right-wing groups have opposed this move and formed Ayyappa Jyothi across the state on December 26 to counter it.
Thousands had taken part in the Ayyappa Jyothi, which was undertaken by the Sabarimala Karma Samiti.
The Kudambashree Mission had earlier informed that it alone will field over 1.25 lakh women on January 1.
Many prominent personalities from all spheres of life are expected to take part in the event.