‘Our Renaissance leaders taught us that some customs are meant to be broken’: Kerala CM Vijayan

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan delivered a powerful speech on Tuesday, October 16, in Thiruvananthapuram, just a day ahead of the Sabarimala temple was scheduled to open its doors to women of all ages, per September’s Supreme Court ruling that has prompted widespread protests. In the final 20 minutes of his speech, Vijayan recalled Kerala’s Renaissance movement, crediting it with the transformation of a land (Kerala) “a model for the entire country, with its commitment to secularism and uprooting casteism. He said that, when considering Kerala and the country as a whole, whenever there have been social reform movements, “there were also sections of people who came out against these movements”. He noted that these sections “were not just the conservative elites,” but that “many of those who were going to win rights and benefits as a result of the social reform movement were also persuaded to oppose” it “using the force of the beliefs and customs which prevailed at the time.”

Vijayan cited the example of sati, calling it “the most cruel custom that our country has seen, saying that even following the ban on sati, “some women jumped into funeral pyres because of their beliefs and customs,” and noting that “there were large-scale protests against the ban”. Vijayan repeatedly emphasised “a custom that is common at one point of time may not be there at later time”. He highlighted that those “led struggles” against customs like sati faced threats, and “attempts to banish them from the community”.

Vijayan plainly spoke of the discrimination that women have faced in India, recalling the many “restrictions” imposed on them when they were menstruating, and noting the situation today. “What about now?” he said, questioning, “Aren’t all these changes that happened right in front of our eyes?” He stressed that the Kerala of today “was born through those struggles” that took place previously, highlighting ones such as “the struggle to break the stone necklaces Dalit women had to wear for others to identify them,” “the struggle for everybody to sit together in schools to study,” as well as “the struggle to win the freedom to use public roads” and the one “to win the right to enter temples and worship”. He emphasised that “our Renaissance leaders taught us that some customs are meant to be broken”.

Vijayan also criticised the BJP, which he noted in Maharashtra allowed the implementation of a High Court verdict to permit women into the Shani Shingnapur temple, but has been protesting the entry of women into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, which is governed by the LDF. “What kind of double standard is this?” he wondered. He strongly addressed the principle of placing belief above everything else, questioning what might happen if this were applied to the Babri Masjid case. Vijayan appealed to everybody, including “believers of all religions” to stand together to defend Kerala’s “secular mindset” against efforts to destroy it.

(The quotes above have been taken from subtitles added by YouTube user yehudimehta, whose video may be viewed below).




Related Articles