Vaikom in Kottayam district is fabled for its past association with stalwarts of the Indian Freedom Movement and the epochal Satyagraha that heralded a social revolution by throwing open public access for the 'untouchables' in the Indian society.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin arrived at Vaikom as the chief guest of the historic Satyagraha's centenary celebrations. He reached Thanthai Periyar Memorial, the venue of the event at Vaikom around 4 pm.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Opposition Leader V D Satheesan, ministers Saji Cheriyan, Vasavan and other prominent leaders are also taking part in the event.
The visit of MK Stalin, which is highly anticipated by the local administration and the residents of the town, is expected to strengthen Vaikom's 'unsung bond' with the neighbouring state.
“Vaikom Satyagraha was a historical event for both Kerala and Tamil Nadu in view of their fight for social justice. This is an important year for Vaikom and everybody is actively involved in commemorating this event, keeping aside all the political differences. The state government as well as the local residents are grateful to the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister for accepting our invite,” said C K Asha, MLA of Vaikom constituency.
She added she was proud to be a part of a celebration where M K Stalin, Pinarayi Vijayan, and leaders of other states and national-level parties, remind and urge people to stand by the ideologies and purpose of Vaikom Satyagraha.
The MLA also opined that this visit would help the town in drawing up plans to revitalize its major attractions such as Thanthai Periyar Memorial — the statue of social reformer E V Ramasamy Periyar — and the ancestral house of Tamil Nadu's first woman chief minister Janaki Ramachandran.
Speaking about the preparations for the grand celebrations on Saturday, Asha said, “We are expecting over 1 lakh people from across the state to take part in the event, which will be held in a temporary auditorium set up near the Vaikom lake. Necessary security measures have been taken for the chief ministers and other leaders according to protocol.”
“Vaikom Ashtami is the only event where we witness a rush in the town. However, this is bigger and we are happy and at the same time cautious while preparing for the event. We have also beautified the areas near the lake and temple as part of the celebrations,” she added.
Ahead of the occasion, the Tamil Nadu CM will present floral tributes at the statues of Thanthai Periyar, Mahatma Gandhi, T K Madhavan, and Mannathu Padmanabha Pillai. He is also likely to visit the ancestral house of Janaki Ramachandran at Valiyakavala in the town.
Facilities for participants
The auditorium has a seating capacity of 15,000, and facilities are available to observe the programme standing. For the sake of safety during a surge, barriers have been placed along the lake's edges. Throughout the event, water bottles will be handed out, and restrooms have been set up close to the venue.
Parking spaces have been set aside for vehicles on municipal properties and temple premises. A team led by DIG has drawn a plan to control the traffic amidst a rush.
TN CM's speech at Assembly
Speaking in the Tamil Nadu Assembly on Thursday, M K Stalin had announced that Rs 8.14 crore will be allocated for the revamp works of the Periyar memorial in Vaikom. To commemorate the Vaikom fight and share its history, purpose, and triumph, the Tamil Nadu government will host year-long events in 2023–2024, he said. He had also mentioned about instituting "Vaikom Award" to honour those who work outside of Tamil Nadu for the welfare of the oppressed people.