After DGP (Prisons) R Sreelekha called out the ritual involving young boys during attaukal Pongala, the rights commission has now intervened in the matter.

Controversy over Attukal Pongala ritual escalates Child rights body registers case
news Controversy Wednesday, February 28, 2018 - 19:09

The recent controversy surrounding the famous annual temple festival of Pongala in Attukal temple in Kerala, seems to have escalated, with a case registered against a ritual held as part of the festival.

The Kerala State Commission for Protection of Child Rights registered a suo-motu case on Wednesday, after DGP (Prisons) R Sreelekha called out a regressive ritual involving young boys.

Kuthiyottam performed as part of the Pongala festival, is performed by young boys, who are made to undergo penance. At the end of the ritual, an iron hook is pierced into the bodies of young boys, the DGP had said in a blog post on Tuesday.

In a press release, the child rights commission said that they registered a case on the matter, following media reports on the ritual. The commission has said that it will look into whether the ritual violates the rights of the children involved in it.

Meanwhile, Attukal temple authorities convened a press meet on Wednesday evening, to brief the media about the preparations for Pongala festival to be held on March 2.

Asked about Kuthiyottom and the allegations of child torture surrounding it, the temple officials said that any issue that arises will be taken up in a meeting of the Trust Board that has 84 members.

On DGP Sreelekha's blog post about the ritual, the temple authorities chose not to comment on them, saying that it was her decidsion.

The controversy surrounding the ritual erupted after R Sreelekha put out a blog post criticising the ritual.

In her post, she said that the ritual amounted to cruelty towards the children and that the act was liable to be punished.

"Boys from the age of 5 to 12 are made to wear just a loin cloth, submerge in cold water thrice daily, eat measly morsels squatting on the floor and sleep on the bare temple ground. Yes, recite mantras and obey blindly their leaders too. They are not allowed to see their parents during this time. And on the final day, each of them will be decked up with yellow cloths, garlands, jewellery and make up on face including lipstick and made to stand in a queue for their last unexpected torture. An iron hook, tiny though it is, will be pierced into their skin on their flanks. They scream. Blood comes out. A thread will be symbolically knotted through the hooks to symbolise their bond with divinity. Then hooks are pulled out and ash roughly applied on the wounds! All this for temple deity! Parents may feel relieved that their boys will now grow up to be disciplined kids and do well in their studies. Will the kids too feel the same? And how will our dear Attukal Amma be feeling?," Sreelekha wrote in her blog.

Pointing out that such cruelty towards children were punishable under sections 89, 319, 320, 349, 350, 351 of Indian Penal Code, Juvenile Justice Act and also penalised by Child Welfare Commission Act, DGP Sreelekha wrote that nobody showed willingness to complain against the abuse on young boys.

Read: ‘It’s cruelty to kids’: DGP Sreelekha calls out ritual in Attukal Pongala in Kerala