IN PICTURES: 3.5 million Indian women form spectacular human chain across Kerala

Aftab Husain Kola

Published: Updated:

More than 3.5 million women formed a human chain across the south Indian state of Kerala last week as part of a state-sponsored initiative to uphold gender equality.

This comes amid growing protests in Sabarimala hill temple after a Supreme Court order lifted restrictions on women of all ages to enter the temple, which prohibits women of menstruating age from visiting.

The uproar has surged after a few women attempted to enter the temple. The 620km-long human chain saw the participation of people drawn from political parties and 176 socio-cultural bodies.

Women from various walks of life - housewives, writers, sportspersons, actors, politicians, techies, social activists and government officials - stood across highways, coursing through the 14 districts from Kasargod in the north to the state capital Thiruvananthapuram in the south.

There were some reports of people attempting to disturb the human chain in certain locations. At Kasargod, a few people sustained injuries as people hurled stones at women returning home after participating in the human chain.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, his ministerial colleagues and communist veteran V. S. Achuthanandan were among those present at the public meeting after the formation of the wall.

The chief minister garlanded the statue of Ayyankali, the renowned social reformer who paved the way for Dalit Empowerment, before the commencement of the event.

Vijayan then said: “The wall has become a movement against gender discrimination faced by women and to protect their constitutional rights.” There has been widespread criticism against the formation of the wall.

“The criticism against the wall of women was due to lack of ignorance about the history of the social reformation movement. The crusade against casteist forces and gender inequalities has been an integral part of class struggle for communists. For us, women’s liberation is part of social liberation.”

At the event, Brinda Karat, a vocal politician said: “Today’s wall of women was aimed at strengthening gender equality; women should no longer be pushed into abyss of darkness.”

Karat said the Bharatiya Janata Party, one of the two major political parties in India, was using women for its “toxic, divisive, anti-women political goal,” and called on women “not to be pawns in the hands of those who have no thoughts about the future of women.”

To lend support to the “wall of women,” men too formed a parallel human chain. Rekha, a housewife from Kasargod who participated in the chain hoped that such a show of unity will pave for the betterment of women and negate the discriminatory attitude of right-wing groups towards women.