A ban imposed on a partially blind celebrity elephant from participating in Thrissur Pooram has marred Kerala’s largest cultural festival with controversies this year.
Citing security reasons, the district administration banned the 54-year-old Thechikottukavu Ramachandran, the state’s biggest domesticated elephant that has been the highlight of Pooram for several years.
The 10.5 feet tall jumbo has been banned from making a public appearance after it ran amok and killed two persons in February.
The decision has triggered widespread protests, with Kerala Elephant Owners’ Federation, backed by right wing outfits, up in arms against the government.
The federation has threatened to not let other elephants participate in the parade, unless the government lifts the ban on Ramachandran, who has claimed 13 lives so far.
Kerala’s chief wildlife warden had submitted a report to government stating that allowing the elephant at the festival will be dangerous.
The decision has invited the fury of elephant owners, who have declared they will not provide elephants for any programme from May 11, a move which will impact temple festivals across the state.
In a bid to ease the crisis, the government has called for a meeting with the elephant owners on Thursday. From that state government’s side, Devaswom minister Kadalampally Surendran and agriculture minister VS Sunil Kumar will lead talks.
Meanwhile, Ramachandran’s angry fans accused the government of destroying the festival and have been leading heated campaigns like ‘Save Ramachandran’ on Facebook. They have reportedly also been flooding Thrissur’s district collector TV Anupama’s social media accounts with angry messages.
Kumar termed the elephant owners’ decision to not send other elephants as inappropriate. “It’s not necessary that Thechikottukavu Ramachandran should lead the pooram,” Kumar said adding the government will go ahead with whatever the high court decides.
Kerala forest minister K Raju said that even though Ramachandran’s age is mentioned as 54 on paper, the tusker is in fact, much older.
“The elephant which has completely lost his sight from one eye and has turned amok multiple times. Ramachandran is taken to festivals with the help of four men on four sides,” Raju said.
The minister added that apart from claiming lives of people, Ramachandran has also killed two domesticated tuskers. “The beast could cause huge trouble at the pooram because a huge crowd will be present in the temple premises. This could turn into a big tragedy," Raju said.