Kerala Float, Based On Vaikom Satyagraha, May Not Make It To R-Day Parade

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Sources said Defence Ministry is yet to finalise states for display of tableaux at Republic Day parade

Thiruvananthapuram:

The centre is understood to have rejected Left-ruled Kerala's float on Vaikom Satyagraha, a renaissance movement against untouchability and linked to temple access, for the Republic Day parade, according to state officials.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's office in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday confirmed that Kerala had not figured in the list of states which would be presenting their tableaux on Republic day, but was yet to get an official communication in this regard.

The development comes at a time when the ruling CPI(M)-led LDF government in Kerala and BJP-headed NDA at the Centre are at loggerheads over many issues, including the Supreme Court order on entry of women in Sabarimala shrine.

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The Vaikom Satyagraha (1924-25) movement was held in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore (southern Kerala) to allow access to all people to the roads leading to the Lord Shiva Temple at Vaikom, near present Kottayam district.

However, official sources in Delhi said the Defence Ministry is yet to finalise the names of states, Union Territories and central government ministries for display of tableaux at the Republic Day parade.

"The theme of our float was Vaikom Satyagraha. It is learnt that the state's float was rejected. But, we are yet to get a written official communication from the Centre," Chief Minister's private secretary MV Jayarajan told PTI.

A senior state government official, on condition of anonymity, said there was a meeting of representatives on Wednesday from states whose floats had been selected, and when asked, it was "unofficially informed" from the Defence Ministry that the Kerala float had not been selected.

"It was a stage-by-stage process. If a state is not called for the next level of scrutiny, it is deemed that it has been rejected. Four stages of selection process had been completed so far. In the last stage, there were 19 states. We came to know that 14 states have been shortlisted in the today's meeting in New Delhi," the official, who was associated with the float project, said.

The centre's reported move comes at a time when the state government had launched a massive campaign in recent days to promote the renaissance values and movements of the state in the wake of the Sabarimala women entry issue.

The Left Democratic Front government has vowed to implement the Supreme Court allowing entry of women of all ages into the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa. There has been opposition from several quarters including the BJP which has said that it was for protecting the faith of the devotees who supported the tradition that disallowed entry of women in the 10-50 age group.

The state government was also planning to put up a "women's wall" to create awareness on Renaissance and progressive values in the wake of the top court's verdict.

Vaikom Satyagraha against untouchability was particularly aimed at getting permission for all sections of the society cutting across caste to travel through the roads leading to the Lord Shiva Temple at Vaikom. Several national leaders and social reformers across the country including Mahatma Gandhi had extended great support to the movement.

According to the state official, the Defence Ministry itself had suggested the theme for the state's tableau.

"They have suggested that as this year being the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, we can depict some instances related to the Father of the Nation's visit to the state," he said.

The Ministry had suggested three themes – one was Mahatma's visit to the state in connection with Temple Entry Proclamation or Vaikom Satyagraha or the Non-Cooperation Movement, he said.

"Among them, we have selected Vaikom Satyagraha as our theme and presented it before the Ministry. The selection panel was very much impressed," he said, adding that the only suggestion they gave during the last meeting held on December 19 was to lessen the size of figures being depicted on the float.

But, the state had not received any further communication about the next meeting after that, the official said adding that he had no clue that on what grounds the state float had been rejected.

The sources in Delhi said around 20 states, Union Territories and central government ministries and departments were short listed by a panel of experts and a final call on the list is yet to be taken by the competent authority at the defence ministry.

They said 32 applications for tableaux were received from states and Union Territories while 23 requests came from various central government ministries and departments.

After screening all the applications, around 20 of them were short-listed by a panel comprising experts from the fields of art, culture, music and theatre. A number of officials from Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Culture were also part of the panel.

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