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Kerala combs forests to probe elephant’s death, Opposition leaders slam Maneka, minister

The elephant died after her mouth was severely damaged in an explosion in Palakkad district. It was first spotted in a river near the buffer zone of Silent Valley National Park on May 23.

Written by Shaju Philip , Ananthakrishnan G | New Delhi, Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: June 5, 2020 8:09:27 am
kerala elephant death, kerala news, pregnant elephant death, fruit laced with explosives, pachyderm to kill boars, indian express Saurabh, a B.Tech student, protests in Lucknow against the death of the pregnant elephant in Kerala. (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

Even as more than 250 personnel from Kerala’s forest department comb private estates on forest fringes in Palakkad and Malappuram districts, looking for clues on the death of a pregnant elephant on May 27, several opposition leaders Thursday slammed ruling BJP leaders for attempts to create controversy and purportedly try to sully the state’s image.

The elephant died after her mouth was severely damaged in an explosion in Palakkad district. It was first spotted in a river near the buffer zone of Silent Valley National Park on May 23.

The forest department’s combing team comprises personnel from Silent Valley, Mannarkad, Palakkad and Nilambur divisions under whose jurisdictions forests in the two districts mostly fall, sources said.

Read | Pinarayi Vijayan on elephant death: ‘Investigation underway, focussing on three suspects’

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The team is mainly looking for presence of snares kept by locals for wild animals, and for likely suspects in the case. They are assisted by a team of police under Palakkad Superintendent of Police. There has been no breakthrough yet, and sources said the forest department has decided to extend the combing operation across the state.

A separate team of the state Crime Branch are proceeding with a simultaneous probe into use of explosives which had lad to the animal’s death.

In Kerala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said, “At the national level, there is a concerted campaign against the state. The incident was reported in Palakkad district, but the name of (Muslim-majority) Malappuram was dragged into it deliberately. Even Union ministers are engaged in a baseless campaign. If somebody thinks the incident can be used to do away with the ovation (credit) the state has gained in its Covid-19 management, it is only their delusion.” He said any attempt to “question the state’s self-respect would not be allowed”.

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It has been alleged that the elephant was injured after it was fed a pineapple stuffed with explosives.

Kerala Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala of the Congress also condemned the “campaign” against the state, and remarks linking the animal’s death to Malappuram. In a letter to BJP MP and former Union minister Maneka Gandhi, he stated, “Your irresponsible statement has given space for airing hate speeches abusing a district and its people. Withdraw and apologise for your statement portraying this district as a centre of crime.”

Malappuram MP and IUML leader P K Kunhalikutty said, “Their attitude against one place where such incidents have not taken place in the past…that’s part of their partisan and communal agenda…. They use Malappuram’s name for their communal campaign.”

The Congress high command also accused the BJP of giving a communal colour to the “unfortunate incident.”

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kerala elephant death, kerala news, pregnant elephant death, fruit laced with explosives, pachyderm to kill boars, indian express The elephant’s killing came to light on May 30 after Mohan Krishnan, a section forest officer in Mannarkkad in Palakkad district, wrote a heartfelt note on Facebook which quickly went viral.

“The BJP must tender an unqualified and unconditional public apology for giving communal colour to the most unfortunate incident of the killing of a pregnant elephant in Kerala,” AICC general secretary K C Venugopal said. He said “any kind of mindless and unreasonable violence against wildlife is totally unacceptable and unjustifiable” but pointed out that senior BJP leaders such as Maneka Gandhi and ministers like Prakash Javadekar are “deliberately spreading false information.”

In remarks to a TV channel, Maneka had said, “Malappuram is perhaps the most disturbed district in the country. Some incident is reported there every day. People in the panchayat throw poison, and not just elephants, thousands of animals are killed at the same time. Birds and dogs are killed… They have killed so many women. They chop off people’s arms in communal clashes. The situation there is extremely horrifying… It seems even the Kerala government is scared of them as there is no action. The weakest people in the administration are sent to Malappuram. It is famous that you can kill anybody, the Kerala government will not do anything.”

She said that an elephant is killed every three days in Kerala.

Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar also stated that the elephant died in Malappuram district.

On the probe, Kerala’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden Surendrakumar said, “We suspect the culprits got local support…a few are being questioned. The wound in the mouth of the elephant was caused by an explosion. There is an illegal practice to drop cracker-loaded fruit in farmlands to target wild boars that raid crops. But we cannot conclusively say at this stage that the elephant has attempted to eat such a fruit.”

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Meanwhile, another elephant was on Thursday found with injuries to its mouth, and marks on its body, in Kalikavu forest range in Malappuram, around 20 km from Ambalappara, where the pregnant elephant was spotted.

With Vishnu Varma in Kochi

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First published on: 05-06-2020 at 02:09:56 am
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