Kerala politicians allege hate campaign over elephant’s death

Our Bureau Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on June 05, 2020 Published on June 05, 2020

Amidst widespread outpouring of grief over the unnatural death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala on May 27, leaders from the ruling CPI(M) and Opposition Congress-led fronts have called out attempts by some quarters to launch a hate campaign by painting the tragedy in communal colours.

Former union minister and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi had expressed shock over the incident and tweeted that the elephant had died in Malappuram, the country’s “most violent” district “where poison is thrown on roads leading to the death of 300-400 birds and dogs at a time.”

Tragic incident, says Kerala CM

Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, too had taken the State government to task. State Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, meanwhile, tweeted that ‘in a tragic incident in Palakkad district, a pregnant elephant has lost its life. Many of you have reached out to us.

“We want to assure you that your concerns will not go in vain. Justice will prevail. Having said that, we are saddened by the fact some have used this tragedy to unleash a hate campaign. Lies built upon inaccurate descriptions and half-truths were employed to obliterate the truth.

“Some even tried to import bigotry into the narrative. Wrong priorities,” Vijayan wrote. “Kerala is a society that respects the outrage against injustice. If there is any silver lining in this, it is that we now know that we can make our voices heard against injustice.”

The wild elephant had strayed into a village and apparently chomped on firecracker-laced pineapple fruit. It blew up its mouth, tongue and jaw bone and the extremely distressed animal wandered in the village in excruciating pain, as eye witness accounts suggested.

Unable to eat for a long time and pestered with marauding flies feasting on its wound, she sought relief by emerging into a nearby river and kept standing, mouth under water and trunk held up, and died in that posture, a forest official whose note with a picture in social media brought the episode to light.

The Chief Minister said that the event occurred at Kottopadam village that falls under Mannarkad forest division in Palakkad district - not Malappuram district as alleged. Wildlife activists have not heard about “the death of 300-400 birds and dogs at a time” nor are there media reports to that effect, he added.

Information on culprits

While a probe had been ordered by the Forest Department into the incident on May 27, the Chief Minister said a wildlife crime investigation team from Kozhikode will now take charge. Data during 2014-15 to 2018-19 show that 490 elephants had due to unnatural causes such as electrocution, poaching and poisoning. The maximum deaths (259) were reported from Assam, West Bengal and Odisha.

Meanwhile, the Department is believed to have been able to make a breakthrough with sources hinting that the team may already have information about the people who set the trap. According to them, while it was meant to kill wild animals it was also too early to say if it was targeted at the elephant.

Published on June 05, 2020
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