Braving the rains, around 30 lakh Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) activists in Kerala on Friday held their hands together to form a 910-km human chain from Thiruvananthapuram to Kasargode to protest the free trade agreement India signed with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The human chain was formed at 5 pm and a pledge was taken against the agreement. The main slogan was "ASEAN trade agreement to be dumped in Arabian Sea".
The cadre-based party also roped in like-minded eminent people like Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Christian priests, writers, social activists and film personalities like award winning directors TV Chandran and PT Kunhumohammed.
A minute's silence was also observed in memory of the victims of the boat tragedy in Thekkady lake Wednesday that left 41 people drowned.
Politburo member S Ramachandran Pillai was the first link of the human chain in Kasargode in north Kerala and party general secretary Prakash Karat was the last in front of Kerala Governor RS Gavai's official residence in Thiruvananthapuram.
Before the chain was formed, a public meeting was held in front of the governor's residence, where Karat, state party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan lashed out at the Manmohan Singh government for "cheating the people of the state" by signing the agreement.
"The central government has violated all democratic traditions because our country has a federal structure and despite repeated requests from the Kerala government no discussion with the state governments took place, nor was parliament informed about this agreement. This protest is to unite the people of the state and to warn the country that the policy of the centre is wrong," said Karat.
Achuthanandan said the prime minister had assured him that the fears of the state would be addressed and only then would the agreement be signed, but that has not happened.
"This is going to benefit only the western world and we are going to be seriously affected. We will wait to see if the centre has any second thoughts of going ahead with the agreement. If it does not happen, then we will work out the next stage of protests," said Achuthanandan.
Similar meetings were held at major centres of the state's 13 districts. There was no human chain link in Idukki district following the tragic boat accident.
Even though it was a CPI-M party programme, allies like a faction of the Janata Dal-S, Congress-S and the Kerala Congress (Joseph) took part.
The Congress party, however, dismissed the human chain as nothing but a drama to divert attention from the real problems plaguing the state.
The Union commerce ministry issued advertisements in newspapers asking people of the state not to be misled by wrong campaigns against the agreement.