Despite the Puttingal temple tragedy and elephants running amok goring many to death, festival organizers in Kerala refuse to learn from past mistakes.
VK Venkitachalam who is the secretary of the Heritage Animal Task Force -an NGO based in Thrissur- had no option but to shoot off a letter to the Chief Controller of Explosives at Nagpur with a copy to the Director of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) in New Delhi.
The letter -a copy of which is in possession of TNM- seeks to highlight how 2300kgs of high decibel explosives were used in the silent zone of the Thekkinkadu grounds as part of Thrissur Pooram which was celebrated on April 17 and 18.
86-year old Paramekkavu Rajendran and 50-year old Shankaran Kulangara Manikandan –both elephants- were made to stand just 25 to 30 feet away from the blast site.
According to the letter, all 74 elephants paraded in this year’s Pooram -despite having gaping wounds all over their bodies- were made to stand and walk for 36 hours without respite and nourishment.
It also claims that the famed temple celebration was conducted in connivance with district officials in violation of PCA Act of 1960 and Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, Sound Pollution Regulation Rules of 2004 and the Supreme Court order dated 18th August 2015 which specifically authorize the Kerala State forest Department to arrest all the persons who are party to torture any elephant as part of any elephant parade.
The court order also authorizes the Kerala State Forest Department to seize all elephants without a valid ownership certificate which the letter says none of these 74 elephants possess.
"They did not allow veterinary doctors to inspect the animals before being paraded for Pooram. It was clearly mentioned in the rules that the elephants need to get a fitness certificate," said Venkitachalam to TNM.
Speaking to NDTV, Vinod Kumar of the Animal Welfare Board of India said; “We were not even allowed to inspect the elephants. We were clearly stopped even as some veterinary doctors went ahead and inspected. We have a mandate under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to inspect animals in such circumstances. Last year we saw several discrepancies." says Mr Vinod Kumar from AWBI.
Here are a few accompanying photographs which were sent as accompanying visual proof: