After Sabarimala, now protests planned over women’s access to Agasthyarkoodam hill

The Kerala High Court had on November 30 ruled that there could be no gender-based restricting on climbing Agasthyarkoodam.
After Sabarimala, now protests planned over women’s access to Agasthyarkoodam hill
After Sabarimala, now protests planned over women’s access to Agasthyarkoodam hill
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Members of the Kani tribe reportedly plan to take a leaf out of the book of Sabarimala protesters by organising a “naam japa” (prayer chant) protest to express their disapproval at women trekkers being allowed to access Agasthyarkoodam. Women trekkers were earlier not allowed on the mountain during the 41-day trekking season between January 15 to March 2.

Members of the Kani tribe believe the hill, the second tallest in Kerala, and the shrine at its peak to be the resting place of the sage Agasthya, who appears briefly in the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The sage Agasthya is also, like Ayyappa, meant to be an eternal celibate, leading to the ban on women trekking to the temple.

Onmanorama reports that Mohan Triveni, president of Agasthyarkoodam Kshethra Kanikkar Trust said that the naam japa protest is scheduled to be held at Bonacaud around the time women begin trekking to the peak at the beginning of the trekking season, while the date is still set to be decided.

However, unlike the protests held by anti-women’s entry protesters around the Sabarimala issue, members of the Kani tribe do not intend to physically stop women from trekking or to violently oppose the High Court’s order allowing women access to the hill. The Hindu reports that discontent is mounting among members of the Kani tribe, however, it is unlikely that the area will witness violent agitations. Mohan told Onmanorama that “there is a High Court verdict and we have to respect the law of the land.”

The Kerala High Court had ruled on November 30 that there could be no gender-based restriction on climbing or trekking Agasthyarkoodam. The ruling further pointed out that no one had any vested right over the hill, as it was a reserve forest and a UNESCO heritage site. It further opined that the Kani tribe did not have any customary right of worship over the area as there was no physical shrine there, only an idol.

“In case permission is being granted for trekking in the year 2019, it is made clear that restrictions shall not be imposed only on the ground of the gender of the trekker,” the Kerala High Court had observed. Thus, forest officials will be taking women on the yearly supervised trek to Agasthyarkoodam this year. The Hindu reports that all trekkers will be insured by the forest department, and that a shed has been constructed for women trekkers to use. The Kerala government had opened online registration for male and female trekkers who wished to visit the hill on 4 January. 

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