Malayali expatriates attend a meeting in Abu Dhabi to oppose state government's Women's Wall.
Abu Dhabi - The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is organising the Women's Wall to support the renaissance values of the state.
The recent controversies surrounding women's entry into Sabarimala temple in Kerala have reached the Indian expats in the UAE.
While some expat organisations are drumming up support for the state's call to organise a Vanitha Mathil (Women's Wall) in Kerala in January, others are slamming the left government for its stand that is perceived to be 'anti-devotees'.
The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan is organising the Women's Wall to support the renaissance values of the state in the light of the recent Supreme Court verdict lifting the ban on women from entering the hill-top temple of Sabarimala, a popular Hindu pilgrimage centre in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, India.
The campaign, envisaged as a human chain of women stretching from Kasargod in the North to Thiruvanathapuram in the South, had drawn mixed response from the Malayalees - who comprise one of the biggest Indian communities in the UAE, estimated at more than one million.
To express solidarity with those supporting the Wall, the Kerala Social Centre (KSC) in Abu Dhabi said they are organising a parallel Women's Wall in Abu Dhabi on January 1 to coincide with the main event in Kerala.
"We believe it is important to stand with the government as communal forces are trying to rip apart Kerala's secular fabric. The Wall in Abu Dhabi will express unity and support for women's empowerment and gender equality," Shameena Omar, convenor for the women's wing of the left-affiliated Shakti Theatres, told Khaleej Times.
The Wall will be held at the KSC at 7pm. An hour-long stage programme based on the theme of women empowerment and a dinner will follow.
"Though people are trying to give it a political colour, this has nothing to do with politics. The issue is about women and social renaissance. We cannot sit and watch when communal forces are trying to yank the state backwards to the dark ages," said Omar, an engineer by profession.
Shyni Balachnadran, KSC's joint convenor, said the aim cuts across political interests and focuses on reaching out to all women.
"We welcome everyone to participate in the Wall. It is a symbolic gesture to support the Women's Wall and stand for the renaissance values, women empowerment and fight against regressive social practices," said Balachandran.
Similar pro-Wall events are being organised in Sharjah and Dubai, but organisers refused to share more information to avoid controversies.
Not all Malayali expats, however, are throwing their weight behind the Women's Wall. Malayalee Samajam, an expat community organisation in Abu Dhabi, witnessed a gathering that marked a different view last week.
Veena Radhakrishnan, secretary of the Indian National Culture Arts Society (Incas), a Congress-affiliated organisation in the UAE, said the Women's Wall goes against "all democratic values of India", and, hence, should be opposed.
"More than 100 women took part in the gathering we organised. We also took a pledge to stand by devotees and also to uphold the age-old religious traditions of the temple," Radhakrishnan said.
"Renaissance will not happen by letting women enter Sabarimala. Majority of women believe in temple traditions and we don't want anyone to trample upon it," she said.
Yesuseelan, president of Incas, said the state government is imposing the Wall on people and that is what they are opposing.
"People are forced to make financial contributions to organise the wall. Government machinery is being used. This is undemocratic by any standards," said Yesuseelan.