Days after a series of dowry deaths rocked Kerala and kicked up a heated debate on the menace,Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, on Wednesday, observed a fast to create social awareness against the social evil and end atrocities against women.
It may be for the first time in the history of the southern state that any governor was fasting for such a social cause.
Scripting a new chapter, Khan began the fast at Raj Bhavan, his official residence in Thiruvananthapuram, by 8am, urging people to say a big no to the decades-old evil practice.
The governor would continue the fast till 6pm and would also take part in a prayer meeting to be organised at the Gandhi Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram later in the evening before ending the fast, Raj Bhavan sources said.
He is observing the fast in response to a call by various Gandhian organisations to spread awareness against the practice of giving and taking dowry as part of marriages.
Last month,Khan had made an emotional appeal to women to say no to dowry when it was demanded during the time of marriages and expressed willingness to be part of any "organised" voluntary movement to create awareness against the menace.
He reacted after visiting the house of Vismaya, an Ayurveda medical student, who was recently found dead in husband's house under mysterious circumstances after she had complained of dowry harassment in Kollam district.
Terming dowry as an "evil", he had said social awareness should be created about its unholy aspects and urged NGOs or volunteers, who selflessly work for public causes, to start a special movement against it.
In a video message issued on Monday evening, Khan said dowry is a "grave injustice and ignominy to the dignity of women" whose contributions to Kerala's growth are widely acknowledged.
The opposition Congress and BJP extended support to the governor for adopting the "Gandhian path" to raise awareness against the menace.
Lapping up the opportunity to criticise the Left government over the issue, they alleged that the failure of the Pinarayi Vijayan government to ensure safety of women in the state had forced the governor to observe a fast to open the eyes of authorities.
"Greetings to the Governor who is observing a fast seeking to ensure the safety of women and girls of Kerala," senior BJP leader and Union minister V. Muraleedharan, said in a Facebook post.
Hailing Khan for taking up such a cause, he said it may be a "rare episode" in the administrative history of the country.
He also said it is for the state government to find out why the Governor, the head of the state, has to fast seeking the safety of women.
Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K. Sudhakaran claimed that the failure of the state government to ensure safety and security of people was one of the reasons why the governor was sitting on a fast.
Terming the Governor's fast a "rare incident", he said Khan has raised a "justified issue" and his agitation is "meaningful".
"The circumstance in Kerala now is that even the Governor is staging a Gandhian way of protest. The state government can not backtrack from its responsibility," the Kannur MP added.
Meanwhile, a dawn-to-dusk fast was progressing at Gandhi Bhavan also where several Gandhians were taking part in the drive under the aegis of the Gandhi Smaraka Nidhi and other such outfits.
The Gandhian organisations said the programme aims at ending atrocities against women and to address the need to make Kerala a safer place for them.
Besides Vismaya, a number of other women also had been found dead under mysterious circumstances in the state in the recent days and their family had alleged dowry harassment as reason for their premature death.