The elephant's death has given rise to a communal debate.
Kochi: The gruesome death of an elephant in Kerala after she was allegedly given a pineapple stuffed with firecrackers has polarised debate on social media platforms along communal lines.
The pregnant cow had strayed from the Silent Valley forest and the incident took place in Malappuram, a Muslim majority district in Kerala. She was spotted standing still in water and Forest Department staff tried to save her using kumki elephants, but she didn't budge.
As national and international media picked up the incident, right-wing supporters tried to portray it as cruelty by people in Muslim-dominated Malappuram. A few national media channels reported that local people offered the elephant an explosives-stuffed pineapple but it is not clear how exactly the incident happened.
Animal rights activist and BJP leader Maneka Gandhi responded to the incident on Twitter: "Mallapuram is known for its intense criminal activity especially with regard to animals. No action has ever been taken against a single poacher or wildlife killer so they keep doing it. I can only suggest that you call/email and ask for action."
She added: "The government and wildlife department in Kerala take no action. About 600 elephants are killed by temples by breaking their legs, beating and starving them and otherwise by private owners insuring them and then deliberately drowning them or giving them gangrene by putting rusted nails on them."
To ANI, Maneka was even more direct. "It is a murder. Malappuram is famous for such incidents. It is India's most violent district. For instance, they throw poison on the roads so that 300-400 birds and dogs die at one time."
The former union minister also questioned Rahul Gandhi and demanded the removal of the forest secretary and the state minister. "Forest secretary should be removed, the minister (for wildlife protection), if he has any sense, should resign. Rahul Gandhi is from that area, why has he not taken action," she asked.
Even noted personalities like Tarek Fatah, author and Pakistani-Canadian journalist, an active Twitter user, highlighted the Malappuram angle which only helped to shift focus of the incident, according to animal right activists.
"The atrocity of feeding a pregnant elephant with a pineapple full of firecrackers & killing her, took place in Mallapuram district of India’s Kerala State. The district is the only Muslim-majority district of the state with an over 70% Muslim population," tweeted Tarek Fatah.
He even attached portion of an earlier news article to substantiate that Muslims constitute 70.24 per cent of the population of Malappuram.
Twitterati objected to giving a religious colour to the incident.
Malayalam actor Parvathy Thiruvothu expressed strong objection through her Twitter handle. "Just how you jump at an opportunity to make this an anti-Muslim, hate campaign is astonishing. Focus on the problem. ANIMALS ARE IN DANGER BECAUSE OF CRUEL EXPLOSIVE SNARES. Talk about the actual issue here!" she tweeted.
"I am repeating again and again, My lady, This incident took place at Palakkad. Only reason She is Bringing this News Abt. Malappuram is And exaggerating Abt the same is as it has Large Share of Muslim population..and it's such a shame. Political parties making use of such an incident," tweeted another user in response to Maneka Gandhi’s comment.
However, animal right activist groups are upset over the politicisation of the incident. "The focus should be on addressing the issue of human-animal conflicts on a long-term basis. The policy makers and other stakeholders need to be mindful of the problem and pay attention on it to find some solution. It is unfortunate that the focus of the incident is being diverted," said Sumanth Bindumadhav, Wildlife Campaign manager, Humane Society International International/India.
Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and forest minister P Raju have said that strict action would be taken against those involved in the incident.