As the Republic Day parade winded down in Delhi, between 60-70 lakh people came together to form a human chain across Kerala in a mark of protest and solidarity. The 620-km chain, which was fully formed by early Sunday evening, was the latest dramatic episode in the state’s protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and mooted National Register of Citizens (NRC).
Organised by the ruling LDF, the chain – one of the biggest such gatherings in the state’s history – extended from the town square in northern Kasargod to the border town of Kaliyakkavilai in the south. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI state secretary Kanam Rajendran helped form the section at the Martyrs’ column in Thiruvananthapuram while CPI(M) Politburo members S. Ramachandran Pillai and M.A. Baby formed its first and final links respectively.
Closed fists were raised in salute as an oath was taken to safeguard the Constitution against “attempts to subvert and destroy it”. The Preamble was read out as well. Some 40,000 public meetings were held ahead of a dress rehearsal in the afternoon and after the chain broke around 5 pm. A number of eminent personalities, including celebrities, participated in the event.
Thanking the participants, Vijayan said, “The human chain against the CAA represents a wall to hold back threats to the secular fabric and communal harmony of the country. All of Kerala has stated here today that the CAA, NRC and NPR will not be implemented here. That will was seen by the overwhelming participation by the people today. But we must not falter now.”
A host of senior state ministers participated, including Finance Minister Dr Thomas Isaac, Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran and Law minister A.K. Balan, three of the most outspoken critics of the CAA-NRC. Representatives from the various coalition partners directed the chain’s formation at a number of points.
“The chain has spoken louder than any Republic Day parade tableau could. Kerala’s voice won’t be silenced by fascists,” said U. Nandakishore, one of the thousands of party workers mobilised to ensure safety and coordinate at the local level. A sizeable police contingent was deployed as well along the chain. An RSS worker reportedly attempted suicide in Kollam to protest the chain.
While the opposition UDF stayed away from the event, the chain also saw participation from clergymen from various Christian denominations and Muslim clerics in a number of places. Meanwhile, the Kerala Regional Latin Catholic Council (KRLCC) and the State Waqf Board directed their churches and mosques respectively to observe Sunday as ‘Constitution Protection Day’. Following Sunday masses and prayers across the state, churches and mosques registered under the two bodies hoisted the tricolour and read out the Preamble. In the churches, a KRLCC circular was also read out and an oath to protect the Constitution was administered.
The scale of public participation at the event was reminiscent of the then-unprecedented roughly 50 lakh turnout at the ‘Vanitha Mathil’ or ‘Women’s Wall’ formed against the backdrop of violence in the Sabarimala flare-up last January.
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