Don’t import bigotry: Kerala CM on hate campaign around elephant death

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the police and forest departments are jointly investigating the incident.
Don’t import bigotry: Kerala CM on hate campaign around elephant death
Don’t import bigotry: Kerala CM on hate campaign around elephant death
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Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday put out a strong message saying justice will prevail in the death of a pregnant elephant in the state due to an explosive-laden snare – while also condemning those using the incident to spread hatred and bigotry.

“In a tragic incident in Palakkad dist, 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. An investigation is underway, focusing on three suspects,” the Chief Minister posted on Twitter and Facebook. He also added, “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.”

On May 27, a 15-year-old elephant died standing in the Velliyar river, which runs through Palakkad and Malappuram. While the immediate cause of death was drowning and lung failure, its jaws were mangled due to explosion about two weeks prior to its death. The wound, due to the explosive blast in the mouth, left the elephant unable to take food and water for nearly two weeks, said the postmortem report.

Forest officials suspect the pachyderm must have eaten a fruit stuffed with explosives, which are commonly used as baits to kill or keep away wild boars from destroying crops.

While some reports said it was injured by explosives in Palakkad, the initial set of media reports said the elephant died (by explosives) in Malappuram.

As a result, when the incident started gaining attention across the country, many, including Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, started attributing the incident to have taken place in Malappuram. Many on social media started communalising the crime, stating Malappuram district is ‘known for such instances of violence’ – Malappuram has a large Muslim population. MP and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi, too, made similar insinuations.

Why the place was reported as Malappuram wrongly first

The initial reports perhaps said Malappuram, based on the heartwrenching Facebook post by Mohanan Krishnan, who was part of the Rapid Response Team, engaged in rescuing the elephant on May 27. Mohanan Krishan is the section forest officer in Nilambur, which is in Malappuram district.

Also, the Velliyar river, which originates in a village in Mannarkad block in Palakkad, flows through various panchayats- Alanallur and Kottopadam (Palakkad) as well as Keezhattur and Melattur (Malappuram) and this perhaps added further confusion.

Muhammed Illyas, the president of the Kottopadam Grama Panchayat in Palakkad, confirmed to TNM that the elephant was found in the river in his panchayat. “The elephant was found in the river, which is about 8-9 kms away from my house. When a few residents from the village informed me, I reached the spot and immediately alerted the forest officials,” he said.

A forest official had also told TNM that a few days prior to its death, the injured wild elephant was spotted in Ambalapara ward of Kottopadam panchayat. 

Although the place where the elephant was last found is only a few kilometres away from Malappuram district, the culprit(s) who set the snare with explosives could be from either district, according to officials. 

“An investigation is underway, focusing on three suspects. The police and forest departments will jointly investigate the incident. The district police chief and the district forest officer visited the site today (Thursday). We will do everything possible to bring the culprits to justice,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.

“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. Let us be that people who fight injustice in all its forms; every time, everywhere,” he wrote.

Stating that the government will try to address the causes that lead to increased incidences of human-wildlife conflict and climate change that could affect both the local communities and animals, the CM said, “Justice will prevail.”

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