Panel: Isn't 'Kuthiyottam' Harassment of Kids?
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Kerala State Human Rights Commission (KSHRC) has opined that the government should decide whether the ritual ‘Kuthiyottam’ performed at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple should be continued if it was becoming a harassment to the children.
In an order, KSHRC Chairman Justice J B Koshy observed that any age old ritual, if harmful to children, should be stopped. ‘’It is the duty of the government to see that the children are not harassed in the name of some ritual,’’ he said.
‘’The government should look into whether the ritual is affecting the children physically and mentally. It should also see if the health of the children is affected because of Kuthiyottam,’’ said Justice Koshy.
He made the observation while hearing a petition by social worker P Muraleedharan, who had said that the children participating in Kuthiyottam were mentally and physically harassed. The petitioner had said that the iron wire that is pierced into the body of the children is removed only after 24 hours, creating many health issues.
Muraleedharan, who is also a doctor, said that many children had come to him for treatment after the Kuthiyottam ritual. Earlier, when the case came up for hearing, the Commission had asked an explanation from the District Collector as well as the Attukal Temple Trust authorities.
The Temple Trust authorities had challenged the Commission’s move, saying that the Commission had no powers to take any action as the Trust was not a public servant.
However, the Commission pointed out that the Supreme Court had clearly defined the rights of the human rights commissions, stating that the panels had all powers to take action against individuals or institutions if there was any human rights violation.
Justice Koshy said that there was no point in saying that the ritual should not be stopped as it was an age-old ceremony. Sati and Devadasi systems were abolished and even verbal ‘talak’ has been banned in the country, he pointed out. Moreover, chicken sacrifice was stopped in Puthuppally Church and even bull fight has been banned by the Supreme Court, Justice Koshy said.
Kuthiyottam is a ritual performed by boys below the age of 13 years. They have to observe a seven-day ‘Kuthiyotta vritham’ (penance), starting on the third day of the festival. They have to pass through rigorous physical and mental discipline such as sleeping on the floor, observing strict diet restrictions and staying in the temple.