A 68-year-old woman devotee was killed when an elephant gored her with its tusks at Sabarimala, following which animal rights activists have demanded that jumbos be prohibited at the shrine.
The victim, Baby, hailing from Varkala, died on Sunday evening when a jumbo named Vallabhan which was brought for the 'Vilakkezhunnellippu' ceremony, attacked her, animal rights campaigner Heritage Animal Task Force (HATF) claimed today.
In the wake of the incident, the animal rights outfit has demanded prohibition of jumbos at the hill shrine for carrying idols as part of the festivities.
The Thrissur-based HATF today sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is also the chairman of National Board for Wildlife, seeking stoppage of the practice of using jumbos for temple processions.
The elephant, belonging to Malayinkeezhu Sree Krishna Swamy temple at Sabarimala, has a track record of killing two mahouts within the past four years, the letter claimed.
"Many elephants kept at temples in Pathanamthitta district were kept away from Sabarimala and deployment of Vallabhan from Malayinkeezhu to Sabarimala is a blatant violation of elephant parade rules," it said.
The outfit also alleged that captive elephants were being used for festival processions at Sabarimala without obtaining the prior permission of the district collector and other authorities concerned.
The letter said that immediately after the incident, temple authorities conducted the procession of the idol without using an elephant and made the priest carry the idol.
"Yesterday's incident reiterates the urgency of stoppage of the unnecessary practice of using elephants at Sabarimala for carrying the idol," HATF Secretary V K Venkatachalam said.
"Priests carrying idols of deities during the procession is the age-old practice in many temples in Kerala. But the decision of the temple authorities to use jumbos has now proved fatal for devotees in shrines like Sabarimala where killing of a devotee by an elephant was unheard of in the past," he said.
It also pointed out that the elephant parade guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court, specifically states that jumbos with a track record of killing human beings must be barred from festival processions and other uses.
"Therefore, we expect that the PMO would use this opportunity to put an end to the unnecessary practice of using chained elephants to carry the temple idols, as part of the festivities, with immediate effect," the letter added.