Members of the Kani tribe reportedly plan to take a leaf out of the book of Sabrimala protesters by organising a “naam japa” (prayer chant) protest to show their disapproval at women trekkers being allowed to access Agasthyarkoodam hills. Women trekkers were earlier not allowed on the mountain during the 41-day trekking season between January 15 to March 2. Members associated to Kani tribe believe that the hill, the second tallest in Kerala, and the shrine at its peak are the resting place of the sage Agasthya thus is also appear in Mahabharata and Ramayana.
The sage Agasthya is also considered as Ayyapa, which means to be an eternal celibate, which is the main reason behind the ban on women trekking to the temple. Onmanorama reports that Mohan Triveni, President of Agasthyarkoodam Kshethra Kanikkar Trust, stated that the ‘naam japa' protest is scheduled to be held at Bonacaud around the time women will begin trekking to the peak at the start of the trekking season, therefore the date is still be decided. However, unlike the protestors in respect to anti-women’s entry protestors around the Sabarimala issue, the members of the Kani tribe do not intend to physically stop women from trekking thus don’t wanted to oppose the order of the High Court.
The Kerala High Court had ruled on November 30 that there could be no gender-based restriction on climbing or trekking Agasthyarkoodam. The ruling thereafter pointed out that no one had any vested right over the hill, as it was a reserved 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 did not have any physical shrine, only an idol. The Kerala High court had observed that “Considering the case gets permission for trekking in the year 2019, it makes it clear that restrictions shall not be imposed only on the grounds of the gender of the trekker.” 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 are willing to visit the hill on 4 January.
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