A woman bids to conquer the Agasthyarkoodam hill for the first time

The first batch of trekkers about to climb the Agasthyarkoodam peak on Monday. The first woman ever to undertake the trek can be seen.  

K. Dhanya Sanal, 38, a spokesperson of the Defence Ministry in Thiruvananthapuram, created a record of sorts on Monday when she became the first woman trekker to commence a testing hike up the 1,868-metre Agasthyarkoodam hill, following the recent lifting of a ban that prevented women from trekking beyond Athirumala.

Ms. Dhanya, an avid trekker, said it was her dream to go on the 26-km steep trek up the forest. “I’ve gone on treks across the country, but this remained an unfulfilled wish. When the court lifted the ban, I decided to apply for a pass,” she told mediapersons, adding that she respected the custom of the Kani tribe and did not intend to disturb their practices.

It was after a three-year-long legal battle that the High Court ruled in favour of women’s groups campaigning for gender equality. In its order, the court observed that the rights of the tribes or the traditional forest dwellers cannot work against the fundamental rights of the petitioners and other women to participate in the trek.

Earlier attempt

An attempt made by 51 women and transgenders to scale the peak with the permission of the Forest Department in 2017 proved futile since the Adivasi Mahasabha, an umbrella organisation of tribal groups, moved the High Court and obtained a stay order. In the wake of the recent verdict, 100 women are among the 4,700 people who have registered to undertake the trek during the 47-day season that will culminate on March 1.

The second highest peak in Kerala, Agasthyarkoodam is believed to be the resting abode of sage Agasthya Muni, a celibate, as the legend goes. While the Kani tribe has proclaimed that they will adhere to the court verdict, over 100 people who represent the 27 settlements in the region staged a protest near the forest picket station at Bonacaud, from where the trekkers commenced their journey on Monday. They sang folk songs and offered prayers during the ‘Agasthyarkooda Gothra Achara Samrakshana Yajnam’ to preserve tribal custom.

Tribes’ version

Adivasi Mahasabha State president Mohanan Triveni, also the president of the Agasthyarkoodam Temple Kanikkar Trust, which has been spearheading the cause of the tribespeople in the region, said they would seek a legal recourse. “We have documents to prove that the erstwhile royal family had given possession over the land that has come to be known as the Agasthyamala reserve to the Kani tribe,” he said.

He also lamented that opening up the region to trekkers would harm the ecologically fragile region, a part of the UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 8:11:47 PM |

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