Kerala govt proposes 'Women Wall' on New Year's Day to carry forward 'renaissance'; Opposition slams 'stunt'

The Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s decision to rally one million women to carry forward the renaissance movement that helped create a new social order in Kerala has sparked a controversy, with Opposition parties and a section of community and social organisations terming it a political stunt by the ruling front.

The decision to rally the women in a human wall from the northern district of Kasargode to the state capital of Thiruvananthapuram on 1 January was taken at a meeting of nearly 170 social and community organisations called by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan last week with the avowed objective of protecting the values of renaissance and gender equality.

The Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as upper caste organisations, have viewed the proposed women wall as a tactical move to implement the Supreme Court verdict allowing women of all ages to enter the Sabarimala temple in the name of renaissance.

Pinarayi Vijayan addressing the media after a meeting with community organisations. Image sourced by TK Devasia

Pinarayi Vijayan addressing the media after a meeting with community organisations. Image sourced by TK Devasia

BJP spokesman JR Padmaukumar said that the government had solicited the support of community organisations for the proposed women wall by misguiding them that it was intended to protect the values of the renaissance movement.

“No one is against reforms, but most of the organisations had attended the meeting without realising the government’s hidden agenda. I don’t think any of the Hindu organisations that agreed to associate with the women wall will support the government in implementing the Supreme Court verdict,” he added.

Curiously, the Hindu Parliament, which consists of 70 Hindu organisations, claimed to have made this clear in the meeting itself. Its secretary CP Sugadan is the joint convenor of the women wall. He said that his organisation will continue to resist the entry of young women in Sabarimala.

The chairman of the general council formed to steer the movement is Vellappally Natesan, general secretary of Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam, a socio-cultural organisation of the backward Ezhava caste that openly opposed women’s entry in Sabarimala.

SNDP vice-president Thushar Vellappally was the vice-captain of the Sabarimala Samrakshana Yatra that the BJP undertook opposing the entry of young women in Sabarimala. Thushar is the president of the Bharat Dharma Jana Sena, a political arm of the SNDP, and convenor the National Democratic Alliance led by the BJP.

The Vaikunta Swamy Dharma Pracharana (VSDP) Sabha and Dheevara Sabha, two powerful outfits which attended the meeting, had also expressed their dissent over the programme at the meeting convened by the chief minister. Some other organisations that attended the meeting were involved in physically preventing women from entering the Sabarimala temple. Padmakumar, therefore, considers the women wall to be a farce being played by the CPM for its political gains.

The Nair Service Society (NSS), a socio-cultural organisation of the upper caste Nair community which spearheaded the protests against women’s entry in Sabarimala and a prominent participant in the renaissance movement in the 1930s, stayed away from the meeting, terming the women wall as part of a deliberate attempt to re-establish the caste divide in the state for the political gains of the ruling front.

 

NSS general secretary G Sukumaran Nair said that the government had organised the meeting in the name of renaissance only after it failed to implement its agenda in Sabarimala. “After the government’s attempt to implement the Supreme Court order on the woman’s entry issue with the help of police failed to yield any results, it is now trying to implement it by building a caste-based divide in society by blaming the upper-caste hegemony for its failure,” says Nair.

He said that the renaissance movement spearheaded by stalwarts like Sree Narayana Guru, Ayyankali and NSS founder Mannath Padmanabhan was against discrimination based on caste and religion in the society, unethical practices and superstition. The NSS general secretary said that the present move is aimed at resolving the Sabarimala issue by formenting a caste-based divide.

He said that the Sabarimala issue has nothing to do with renaissance, since the ban on entry of young women in the temple is based on rituals as well as faith in God. “Any attempt to deal with the issue by creating a wedge between caste groups would do more harm to the state,” he added.

Congress MLA and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that the proposed women wall was part of a deliberate attempt by the LDF to gain political mileage from the Sabarimala issue. He termed the move a sugar-coated poison that will divide people along communal and caste lines.

The chief minister said that the women wall was against regressive forces trying to turn the state into a "lunatic asylum."

KN Balagopal, CPM state secretariat member, said that the human wall was intended to rally all the organisations with the renaissance heritage against any attempt to negate the gains of the movement. He said that the intention of the movement is not for entry of women in temples but against the forces trying to use it for their narrow gains.

He claimed that the decision to create the women wall was a natural reaction by women against the attacks on those supporting the Supreme Court verdict. He said that the right-wing forces had created mayhem by attacking not only those who tried to go to Sabarimala, but also those who expressed their interest in doing so, and those who supported them. This is a clear violation of their right to movement, he added.

Well-known orator and thinker Sunil P Ilayidom justified the decision to create the women wall, and said that gender equality was an important component of the renaissance movement. He termed the move the result of the growing public consciousness about the gender equality implicit in the Supreme Court verdict.

“The renaissance movement lost steam following changes in the conditions in the society. The Supreme Court verdict is an ideal condition for reviving the movement. However, I don’t consider the Supreme Court verdict as the sole provocation for the movement. It is the culmination of various campaigns for gender equality,” he added.

He further remarked, “The public conscience in Kerala is in favour of the Supreme Court verdict. The organisations which opposed the verdict initially may have corrected their stance,” said Ilayidom, whose office at the Kalady Sanskrit University was attacked after he spoke in support of the verdict.

Ilayidom believes that the women wall will turn out to be a landmark in the history of the renaissance movement in the state.

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Updated Date: Dec 03, 2018 18:56:18 IST

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