A day after millions of women stood together in the Indian state to form a nearly 400-mile-long human chain to call for equality, two women made history—and sparked protests and a call for a state-wide shutdown—when they entered the Sabarimala temple in the state of Kerala in the early hours Wednesday.
They were the first women to enter the holy Hindu site since a ban on women of menstrual age was lifted just over three months ago, as protests have blocked others from entering previously.
The women were identified as 42-year-old Kanaka Durga and 44-year-old Bindu Ammini, who told India Today TV that the two represented "the society fighting for gender justice." Durga added, "We are not scared at all. We followed our legal right as women. We are 100 percent sure that we didn't hurt people."
Their 3:30am, police-accompanied entrance to the temple follows the New Year's Day action called the "Women's Wall"—a 385-mile (620-kilometer ) human chain. Reuters reports that thousands took part, while other local news outlets put the number at hundreds of thousands, and other local outlets estimated the figure was in the millions.
Organizers had expected as many as five million to take part in the government-sponsored event, which was motivated by ongoing protests carried out by the two opposition parties in the state, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress Party, who are opposed to the high court's ruling from September striking down the ban on 10- to 50-year-old girls and women from entering the temple.
According to India's News Minute, "In what is being seen as a defining moment for feminist politics in Kerala, leaders and members from political parties, socio-political organizations, and progressive Hindu organizations, too, joined the event. There were men, too, who stood up in support and solidarity, affirming their commitment to gender equality."
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, for his part, called the Women's Wall a "movement for equality, gender sensitivity, and social awakening," while The Times of India framed the event as a "historic moment for gender equality."
Social media users captured images of the "wall":
Indeed, the photo that captured today's mood, when millions of women in Kerala stood up and pledged to fight the reactionary forces trying to lead our society backwards.#WomensWall #VanithaMathil#VanithaMathil2019#OurRenaissance pic.twitter.com/iaoCuSbmCS— Subin Dennis (@subindennis) January 1, 2019
Lakhs of malayali women joined hands to form a women's wall in Kerala, against communalism and gender discrimination and demanding to not to push Kerala back to the dark ages... It indeed is a happy new year #WomenWall#KeralaLeads pic.twitter.com/PedpUCatoC— Nileena S Balaram (@neelippennu) January 1, 2019