Leaders from Kerala’s Left as well as Congress-led alliances, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Thursday rejected the factually incorrect statements made by the BJP and central leadership in connection with the death of a wild elephant in the state. Calling out attempts to give a communal colour to the incident, the CM said there are some who have used the tragedy to “unleash a hate campaign” and ‘importing bigotry”.
Former union minister and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi stoked a controversy Wednesday when she claimed that the elephant died in Malappuram district, and that the district is the country’s “most violent” where poison is thrown on roads leading to the death of 300-400 birds and dogs at a time.
The wild elephant died after consuming a firecracker-laced fruit at Kottopadam panchayat that falls under Mannarkad forest division in Palakkad district – and not Malappuram district as alleged. Besides, neither wildlife activists have heard about “the death of 300-400 birds and dogs at a time” in Malappuram nor are there any media reports about the same.
Gandhi also claimed that the Kerala government has not taken any action and that elephants die in the state every three days.
Also read | Kerala combs forests to probe elephant’s death
While a probe had been ordered by the forest department into the death of the elephant on May 27, the Chief Minister said a wildlife crime investigation team from Kozhikode will take over the investigation. Additionally, data from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change between 2014-15 and 2018-19 show that of the 490 deaths of elephants due to unnatural causes, such as electrocution, poaching and poisoning in the five-year period, the maximum deaths (259) were reported in the states of Assam, West Bengal and Odisha.
Following Gandhi’s statement, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar also wrongly stated that the elephant died in Malappuram district.
CM Vijayan, meanwhile, stated on Twitter that while his government would ensure justice for the slain elephant, some persons have used the tragedy to ‘unleash a hate campaign’ and ‘importing 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. 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,” he wrote.
“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; everytime, everywhere.”
Malappuram MP and IUML leader PK Kunhalikutty, while calling for strict punishment for those who committed the crime, questioned the BJP’s central leaders in specifically naming his constituency incorrectly. “The kind of attitude they are taking against one place where such incidents have not taken place in the past, that’s part of their partisan and communal agenda. They don’t even condemn the human killings in Delhi and other places. They ignore that. They use Malappuram’s name for their communal campaign.”
Former Palakkad MP and senior CPM leader MB Rajesh tweeted, “The brutal killing of an elephant is sad and shocking. CM has assured strong action against the crime. But the attempt to communalise it by deliberately spreading the lie that this happened in Malappuram is an inhuman act. The organised hate campaign against Kerala on the sad death of an elephant is politically motivated..”
Sayyid Munavvar Ali Shihab Thangal, president of the youth wing of the Muslim League, called for hate mongers to be punished. “Death of an elephant in Palakkad district is of course sad. But more dangerous stand is to give a communal side to it by portraying Malappuram as the centre of hatred against animals.”
Meanwhile, the issue of the elephant’s death remained a hot-button topic in the virtual space leading to conversations, debates and online petitions. In less than a day, nearly 1000 petitions were started on Change.org, garnering over 13 lakh signatures expressing outrage and demanding that murder charges be slapped against the persons who committed the crime.
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