It was supposed to be a happy occasion for Shaiju and family. A housewarming ceremony with family and friends. But for this family in Kottapadi in Guruvayur temple town of Kerala, the occasion turned out to be tragic. A 54-year-old elephant that was in the vicinity trampled two of the guests to death, and injured 7 others.
Narayanan Patteri (66), who had come from Kannur to attend the house warming was trampled to death on the spot. Another guest Murugan (60), was rushed to a private hospital in Kunnamkulam, but he succumbed to his injuries. The elephant, Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran, a famous but notorious one in Kerala, was brought to Chembalakulangara temple in Kottapadi. According to the police, Shaiju a businessman had sponsored the elephant for the temple festival which was also held on Friday. The elephant was first brought to their house before it was taken to the police. As the house warming ceremony was on, something alarmed the elephant and it ran amok.
A police officer at the Guruvayur station told TNM that there were percussion artists at the ceremony. â€śIt is not clear what upset the elephant.Crackers were burst by someone in the next compound, percussion artists were performing too,â€ť the Sub-Inspector said.
The 54-year-old one-eyed tusker is branded the most dangerous captive elephant in Kerala. Apart from his latest victim, the elephant has killed 11 other people and 3 elephants including Thiruvambadi Chandrashekharan, another celebrity elephant who used carry the Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna idol. Ironically, Thechikkottukavu Ramachandran is also the most popular tusker in the state with thousands of fans and multiple Facebook pages dedicated to him.
The elephant, originally raised in Bihar as Moti Prasad, was brought to Kerala back in 1982 and sold to the Peramangalam Thechikottukavu temple who are its current owners. It lost its eye sight when the mahout hit him in the eye after the elephant refused to obey his orders given in Malayalam, a language the elephant could not understand. This turned him into a violent tusker and resulted in a long line of killings.
The Kerala High Court had banned the elephant from being publicly paraded atleast 6 times, the last ban issued in 2016. Despite this, it continues to be paraded and covers anywhere between 70-80 temple festivals during the season
Elephant rights activist Venkitachalam told TNM that according to a Supreme Court verdict, only those elephants that have been given permission by a monitoring committee are allowed to be paraded. â€śThe temple committee had both CPI(M) and BJP members. They have used their influence to bring this elephant. No monitoring committee has okayed this parading. In 2013, the people who paraded the elephant were made to pay Rs 10 lakh as compensation to three people who had been killed. We have been told that as soon as the tragedy happened today, the elephant was taken away in a lorry, perhaps to escape from giving compensation,â€ť Venkitachalam said.