Last December, days after Kerala’s ruling Left Front government took the initiative to form the ‘Navodhana Samrakshana Samiti’, an umbrella council of community leaders from the Hindu fold, in the name of re-enactment of the Kerala Renaissance Movement of the early twentieth century, I spent some time with Dr M G S Narayanan, eminent historian and public intellectual, at his home in Calicut.
The public debates at the time focused on the urgent need for a second wave of reforms, in order to counter the communal and patriarchal forces that were seen to be reasserting their might in Kerala society. Naturally, discussions with M G S Narayanan focused on contemporary politics and the efforts being taken by the Left government, including the formation of this umbrella council, to bring to life the spirit of renaissance that had inspired Malayali community from the late 19th century.
The grand spectacle of a ‘Women’s wall’ that stretched across the Arabian Sea coast from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram had just been concluded, adding a riot of colour to the Kerala coastline. In the wee hours of the next day, two young Malayali women entered the sannidhanam of Lord Ayyappa’s temple in Sabarimala, in a jubilant declaration of women’s empowerment in this “bastion of gender discrimination.” All these incidents received much international media attention and players in these actions gained celebrity in certain sections of Kerala society.