Social reformer and Dalit icon Mahatma Ayyankali’s Villuvandi Yathra, a historic protest in 1893 for the rights of Dalit people to walk on public roads, had shaken the foundation of caste hegemony set up by the dominant caste groups.
And now, Kerala is recalling the endless struggles of the state in the past like never before, thanks to the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment on the entry of women into Sabarimala and the uproar against the same.
On Sunday, 16 December, the state is set to see another version of the 1893 protest - Villuvandi Yathra for the fundamental rights of women.
The yathra, from Kochi to Erumeli near Sabarimala, is headed by Dalit and tribal women, although women from other communities and classes will also participate.
The ideology behind this is to challenge and take down Brahmanical patriarchy, which many Dalit and tribal women believe is one of the reasons behind the protest against the women entry into the shrine.
“The yathra tries to defeat neo-Brahmanical patriarchy, which emerged again through the protest against the women’s entry. Secondly, we demand that the real legacy of the shrine is for the tribal people and the temple should be returned to them. Our third demand is to protect Article 16 of the Constitution, which ensures equal rights for all,”Rekha Raj, a Dalit activist told TNM.
The journey will have five villuvandis (bullock carts), of which one will be led by Dalit and tribal women. It will begin from Dakshayani Velayudhan square (Vanchi Square) near High Court Junction in Ernakulam.
The square is named after Dakshayani, a Dalit woman who spearheaded the fight for the rights of women from the oppressed class. She was a member of BR Ambedkar's Constituent Assembly, the body that formulated the Constitution of India.
Of the 299 members in this Assembly, only 15 were women; of which, Dakshayani was the only Dalit woman.
Dakshayani’s daughter and social scientist Meera Velayudhan is also leading the movement.
“The argument that the protest against women entry is by the Hindus as a whole is baseless. It is not the Hindus as such, as projected by the dominant class people who carried out the protest, but various communities and castes. The oppressed class of the Hindus is not with that fight. Punnala Sreekumar (leader of the Dalit organisation, Kerala Pulayar Maha Sabha) and Vellappally Natesan (General Secretary of SNDP Yogam, an Ezhava community organisation) of the non–dominant class, too, have said that they are not part of it,” Rekha adds.
There will be a campaign on the yathra on the college campuses on Friday, 14 December.
(Published in an arrangement with The News Minute)