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50 lakh-plus women participate in 620-km Vanitha Mathil in Kerala; 3 cops injured after BJP-RSS workers try to break women's wall

In an initiative to support gender equality and renaissance value, around 50 lakh women formed a 620-kilometre-long Vanitha Mathil (Women's Wall), or in Kerala on Tuesday. The wall was formed across the national highway which stretched from the northern tip of Kasaragod to the southern end in Thiruvananthapuram.

The shoulder-to-shoulder parade was organised in part by the state's Left Democratic Front (LDF). Over 176 socio-political organisations also helped in organising the parade, including the Communist Party of India (CPI), Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) and Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha (KPMS).

Kerala's health minister KK Shylaja led the chain at Kasargod, and CPM leader Brinda Karat was the last person at the end of the chain in Thiruvananthapuram. Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated the event, and in a tweet reiterated the need to "to uphold the values of Kerala Renaissance."

Speaking to ANI about the event and the ongoing Sabarimala issue, a demonstrator said: "Gender equality is an aspect of freedom. Women have been launching protests, marches and strikes to have access to their rights enshrined in the constitution. Who can prevent a devotee from reaching God? It is a golden moment for women to show that it is they have got a right to enter the temple and no one can stop them from doing so."

"The movement is organised partly by the government for the participation of women from North to South to say that we want to work ahead. We want gender equality and justice as we're living in a democratic society," another woman said.

Further reacting to Sabarimala temple issue, she stated, "It's important that there must be a conducive atmosphere. If women have failed to enter Sabarimala till today then RSS, BJP and Congress are responsible for it. And women force today is replying to these anti-women forces and we're saying that it is a land of both men and women where no one can deny women of their basic rights."

BJP, RSS break wall; three police personnel injured

The women's wall demonstration was disrupted after suspected BJP and RSS workers attacked and broke the "wall" at Chettukundu, 20 kilometres south of Kasargod, Business Standard reported. The incident triggered a battle between them and LDF supporters, as well as with the police.

According to a report by The New Indian Express, women from the hill panchayat of Panathady were asked to form the wall at Chettukundu, a pocket of the RSS-BJP. When the women arrived, the suspected RSS-BJP workers said they would not allow them to line up there.

When the women ignored the threat, the workers set on fire the dry grass along the railway track, 10 metres from the road. Police lathi-charged them and chased them away, the report said. The workers responded by hurling stones at the women and policemen, injuring three personnel, police said.

In addition, some BJP and RSS workers also assaulted a reporter for Manorama News, and destroyed the camera. They also attacked the reporter and cameraman of 24 News, and took away the memory card from the camera.

In another incident, some pro-wall activists damaged the window panes of a private bus at Palakkad when it refused to ferry women to participate in the event.

Sabarimala protests continue

The Vanitha Mathil was organised against the backdrop of the 28 September, 2018 Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala.  The top court had lifted the ban on entry of women of menstrual age (10-50 years) inside Sabarimala temple. However, the verdict was not taken well by devotees, as they stopped various attempts by women to enter the shrine.

Violent protests continued to break out around the hilltop temple about, with police on 16 November lathi-charging devotees trying to stop women from entering. Seventy-two people were arrested amid the protests, including BJP leader K Surendran. According to reports, the devotee protests were fanned by the BJP.

Surendran and the others were all granted bail by a Thiruvalla court on 21 November.

Activist Trupti Desai was one of the women who was blocked from entering the temple on 16 November. Devotees staged a sit-in outside Kochi airport upon Desai's arrival, and she was not allowed to leave the premises. She was then asked to return to her hometown Pune after being stuck inside the airport all day.

No women have been able to enter the temple until Wednesday, where two women in their 40s managed to enter the premises and offer prayers. Identified as Bindu and Kanakadurga, the women began the trek to the temple at midnight with police escorts and reached the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine at 3.45 am, reports said.

A video of their journey that is doing the rounds on social media shows that the women did not climb the 18 sacred steps that pilgrims who take the 41-day vow and carry the sacred 'irumudikettu' offering use, The Indian Express reported. Instead, they used a side entrance that VIPs and the media use to get directly in front of the sopanam and then into the sanctum of the temple.

After Vijayan confirmed the news of the two women, massive protests were reported in Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and other districts in Kerala.

The Sabarimala temple's head priest, Kandaru Rajeevaru, ordered to shut the temple till 11.30 am for purification rituals after reports of women's entry into the temple were confirmed. Reacting to the development, Pandalam erstwhile royal Shashi Verma told News18 that the women's entry into Sannidhanam was not historic, but against the customs of Sabarimala.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 02, 2019 13:49:47 IST