Kerala’s Director General of Police (Prisons) R Sreelekha on Tuesday called for an end to the practice of “Kuthiyottam” at the Attukal Devi temple in Thiruvananthapuram during Pongala festivities. The festival will be celebrated on Friday, March 2, this year.

The ritual – symbolic of human slaughter – involves piercing small iron hooks into the skin of boys between the age of 5 and 12 and having a small thread knotted through it and removed.

In a blog post titled “Time to Stop this Yearly Crime in the Name of Faith”, Sreelekha called Kuthiyottam “torture” and said the practice should be declared a crime under the Juvenile Justice Act and the Child Welfare Commission Act for “causing physical and mental pain to children”.

“Parents conspire with temple authorities to put their children through rigorous mental and physical abuse for five days,” she wrote in her blog. “On the final day, each of them will be...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.”

She added: “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!”

Authorities of the Attukal Devi temple in Thiruvananthapuram have rejected the senior officer’s accusation of torture, insisting that the shrine did not force anyone to participate in the ritual, PTI reported. “It is unbecoming of a DGP-rank officer to come out with a misleading statement, especially at a time when the annual festival is on,” said Chandrasekhara Pillai, chairman of the Attukal Bhagawathy Temple Trust.