When M.A. Baby stood on the Ernakulam Town Hall stage and spoke against fascism, four men entered raising a photo of slain RMP leader T.P. Chandrasekharan.
The veteran communist leader spoke on as the four men stood there silently. When someone in the front row asked them to go away, Baby said no, let them stand there.
This was after all a place to express, for everyone. And over 2,000 people had come to fight for that freedom, to express, to be. ‘People against Fascism’ had grown from the 200 odd people it began with to 2000 in a matter of days. The young and old came, the common man came, the celebrities joined, and all the genders – man, woman and transgender – took part. There was a place for everyone, except the fascists.
On stage the faces changed from P.M. Bhargava, the scientist who had famously returned his Padma Bhushan, protesting the intolerance in the country, to writers K. Satchidanandan and Anand, political leaders and film personalities.
When word of Rima Kallingal’s dance for the event got around, some started identifying the whole deal as that — a dance show to protest. But pick out any little group of youngsters dancing on the floor and they will tell you much bigger reasons to come.
“You should see humans as humans, not what category they belong to. How you treat another should only be based on how they treat you,” says Deepthi, who came with a bunch of girls from Kadavanthra to be part of the event.With her are Athulya, Sruthy, Vismaya, Swathi, Amritha and Ashika, all college and school students, well aware of the political situation in the country.
Law College students Haritha, Anandalakshmy and Hafisa tell you that this has nothing to do with their political alignments. “We are against fascism, against intolerance. But this event is to nip fascist tendencies in the bud, before it is too late to do something about it. As law students we support equality between man, woman and transgender,” says the girls, who ironically had to struggle for their own freedom to be there this day, to step out of their 6.30pm curfew at hostel.
Next to them sat, Anu, Sruthy, Amritha and Varsha who chose to dress in sarees. “It is a proud moment for us to be able to appear as we really wish to, and not have to hide. All our lives, we had to hide, having born as men and growing up feeling like women,” they say.
“It is good to be here, accepted as transgenders by famous and established people – shaking hands with political leaders and film artistes. We hope now the local people will also accept us.”
They sat listening to the speeches, in between which would suddenly come a song. P.K. Medini, the veteran singer and CPI activist, looked too frail on stage but she decided to come on hearing the cause.
“Manassu Nannavate/ Matham Ethengilumakatte/ Manahrithin Chillayilellaam/ Nambukal Vidaratte,” she sang as the crowd sang along. Politics stood aside as Congress leader M. Liju took to the podium and said, “It is good to see a get-together of people and not a get-together of castes and religions.”
Celebrities mingled, in the crowd and with the organisers. Actor Sajitha Madathil danced. And on the floor, young actor Minon had been actively moving around. “I like taking part in such human gatherings, but I want to hear people speak as humans, not as representatives. Your mind should not be a slave to anything.”
Filmmaker Aashiq Abu made a one-minute speech: “Kerala, a politically polarised state, has only seen signs of fascism and the protests have already begun, it is a relief to see people come together like this. It will be difficult to confront fascism once it gets too strong,” he said, echoing writer N.S. Madhavan’s words.
N.S. Madhavan had said that it was fine we had our differences of opinion, but it was time to keep it aside now because once it caught on, there would be no freedom from it.
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