Lakhs of women in Kerala on Tuesday participated in the 620 km-long “women’s wall” –
from Kasargod in the north to Thiruvananthapuram in the south – to send a message of gender equality.

State Health Minister KK Shailaja led the wall at Kasargod and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat in Thiruvananthapuram. “Today’s women wall formation was an aim to strengthen gender equality,” The Indian Express quoted Karat as saying. “Women should no longer be pushed into dark sides.”

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had announced the “Vanitha Mathil”, or “women’s wall”, last month, and had said it would demonstrate the “secular and progressive mindset” of the state. State funds would not be used for the initiative, he had added.

Some men too formed a corresponding human chain opposite the women’s wall in solidarity with the movement, reported The News Minute. The participants made a pledge that read: “We are taking the pledge that we will uphold Renaissance values, we will stand for equality for women, we resist the attempts to make Kerala a lunatic asylum, and we will fight secularism.”

The event comes in the backdrop of massive protests in the state against a Supreme Court verdict that scrapped the traditional restriction on women of menstruating age from entering the Sabarimala temple. Dozens of women who tried to enter the Ayyappa shrine following the court ruling failed to do so despite police protection and prohibitory orders. The state’s Left government has blamed the Opposition and “communal forces” for encouraging the protests.

Earlier, Vijayan had said women from across castes and religions would join the wall to “save Kerala from being dragged back into the era of darkness”.

Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala has described the initiative as a “wall of contradiction”, and Opposition MLA MK Muneer has called it a “communal” wall for inviting participation only from “progressive Hindu organisations”.