Translated by J Devika
[this is an earlier version of a translation that appeared in my book Her-Self, from Stree/Samya, Kolkata, 2005. For a fuller, annotated version, please refer the book]
Vatakkecharuvil P. K. Kalyani was presumably one of the few active female Satyagrahis during the Vaikam Satyagraha. She is probably the Kalyani mentioned in the report sent by the Inspector of Police, Vaikam, to the District Superintendent of Police, Kottayam on 24.10. 1099 M.E (mid-June 1924), in which he says that three Ezhava women from Mavelikkara, Lakshmi, Karathoo Kunju and Kalyani, have arrived as Satyagrahis (625/102,Vaikom Satyagraha Files Vol.III).
(‘Keraleeya Hindu Streekalodu Oru Abhyarthana’, Malayala Manorama 24 July 1924)
The Satyagraha at Vaikom is indeed a struggle for one of the fundamental rights of human beings, the freedom of movement. Much of the life-force of two or three hundred people has been expended in this cause here, in this short while. We, who have only heard of mighty self-sacrifice in the stories of mythical figures such as Jesus Christ and Prahlada, now witness it at Vaikom. Here we see martyrs who repose their faith in truth and morality, give no thought to adversity, and sacrifice the whole of their vitality in the face of violence, needless obstinacy and terror. There is no doubt that our victory lies in the future.
Dear sisters, what is our duty at this juncture? Is not freedom of movement essential for all? Large sections of women suffer from the lack of this freedom; is it not the duty of others to remedy it? Our menfolk provide us with models worthy of emulation in this matter. Is it not our duty to uproot the laws and customs that debilitate the freedom of movement of human beings? Mahatmaji’s faith tells that we must strive incessantly to fulfill our duties. “Did not Bhama, the beloved of Krishna fight in battle, did not Subhadra drive the chariot, did not Victoria rule this world?”– this is not the time to lean onto such examples. In truth, women have extended very little help to the Vaikom Satyagraha. We have suffered no austerities for it. A helping hand, though a minor one, was offered by our esteemed sisters from Mayyanad. Like in many other matters, their handfuls-of-rice (Pidiyari) collection has been exemplary. Among the volunteers here, there are more natives of Tamil Nadu compared to our own people. Mrs. Ramaswamy Naicker shows herself as enthusiastic as Mr. Naicker in this. Her capacity for renunciation is indeed admirable, a model for all of us. No matter how biting the rain or the cold; she is always beside us in our endurance with infectious enthusiasm. Mrs. Channar, too, is practising impeccable self-denial. She is presently unwell. We need fifteen people to conduct the Satyagraha each time at all the four gates of the temple. This must include both avarnas and savarnas. No savarna woman has yet come forward to participate in the Satyagraha. Probably no one realises how ignominious this is. Now we are observing the Satyagraha only at the western and the northern gates. If we are able to get together ten people, we can save our face by organising a Satyagraha exclusively of women at all four sides. The higher the social status of the participants ready for self-sacrifice, the more effective will our action be. Therefore a sizeable number of persons of high social standing, earned through education or otherwise, must urgently come forward into the struggle.
Women are capable of bearing the entire financial burden of the Satyagraha. The Ezhava community has opened a Satyagraha canteen through the handfuls-of-rice campaign. It was opened on the first of Karkatakam (July-August). If a canteen is being run from the negligible amounts of grain collected by the Ezhava women, the other expenses may be readily met by the collective efforts of other Hindu women. The residents of Mayyanad send us a tidy sum by their handfuls-of-rice collections alone. With some active effort, we will be able to accomplish a worthy deed easily, even if we limit ourselves to the natives of Tiruvitamkoor. How Mahatmaji will rejoice, if he heard that the Hindu Woman of Kerala was piloting the Vaikam Satyagraha with her ‘pinch’ of grain. Therefore I exhort you to make intelligent use of this opportunity to work for a glorious cause, this chance to actualise the purpose of life. I invite the attention of all sisters to this issue.