JUMBO'S DEATH

Maneka says ‘Malappuram famous for such incidents’, forest officials say ‘no one fed elephant pineapple intentionally’

Several BJP leaders have used Maneka Gandhi’s statement to target the Kerala govt, where the party is trying to make inroads

Maneka says ‘Malappuram famous for such incidents’, forest officials say ‘no one fed elephant pineapple intentionally’

A devotee performs a prayer to protest the recent killing of a pregnant elephant in Kerala, in Kolkata on June 4, 2020. AFP

Vibha Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 4

Amid the furore over the tragic death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala, a political blame game has also ensued after the senior BJP leader and animal rights activist, Maneka Gandhi, called Malappuram, a district with a majority of Muslims, “India’s most violent district”.

The BJP is now being accused of “communalising” and “using” the heart-breaking incident, the genesis of which many say is essentially man-animal conflict, for “political gains”.

The elephant died in Velliyar river, “which borders Palakkad and Malappuram districts”, its detractors say.

Meanwhile, according to the forest officials, no one would have fed the firecrackers-filled pineapple to the elephant. It must have found it lying somewhere.

“Pineapples and other fruits filled with firecrackers are used as a snare to catch wild boars that destroy crops. It is cruel, wrong and illegal but such incidents do happen at places where wild animals create problems for farmers. The legal way to get rid of wild boars is long and tortuous,” they said.

Incidentally, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who said killers would not be spared, named Kerala several times to assert it is “not an Indian culture to feed firecrackers and kill”.

Several BJP leaders have used Maneka Gandhi’s statement to target the Pinarayi Vijayan government in the state where the party is trying to make inroads.

“It is not an incident. It is a murder. A pregnant elephant was fed a pineapple filled with a bomb that exploded its mouth. Malappuram is very famous for incidents like this. It is the most violent district in the whole of India. For instance, they throw poison on roads so that 300 to 400 birds and dogs die at one time. The Kerala government has not taken any action in Malappuram,” Maneka Gandhi was quoted as saying.

Vijayan said the investigation was underway and the state government would take strict actions against the culprits.

However, according to the officials, it was not so easy to punish in such cases.

“The issue is too complex and layered. ‘Gundu’, a firecracker used during celebrations, is often inserted in fruits to scare wild animals. There is also no evidence to suggest that the elephant was intentionally fed the explosive. Traps are laid to snare the wild boars/pigs not only in Kerala but also Karnataka.

“Arrests will be made but they will get away due to lack of evidence. Farmers use the illegal way to get rid of wild animals because the legal way is long and tortuous,” the officials said.

Originally belonging to the Silent Valley National Park (SVNP) in Palakkad, the elephant died at Velliyar River with its trunk in the water.

Due to the explosion, it received deep injuries in the upper and lower jaws, after which the areas were filled with maggots. Because of the injuries, the elephant could not eat or drink anything for weeks, as per the reports.

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