THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: This was a ‘baraat’ with a difference. If in North India, the decked-up bridegroom is taken on a decorated horse to the accompaniment of music, a wedding procession complete with drums and dancing that took place the other day near Kollam had the bridegroom on top of a tall caparisoned tusker. This was not all. It was the bride who was the centre of attraction; the groom was so high that he was hardly noticed. Covered in dazzling jewellery, the bride walked right at the front, proudly holding the left tusk of the jumbo.
Animal activists have questioned the ‘baraat’, and forest officials have begun a probe. The Captive Elephant Management Rules, 2012, have banned the use of captive elephants for personal or commercial purposes; it can be paraded only during traditional festivals. Further, a Forest Department order on March 20, 2013, dictated that captive elephants should not be used for new festivals. The wedding party also failed to inform the district collector (who chairs the district elephant monitoring committee) about the parade of elephants beforehand, a mandatory requirement before taking an elephant out along public roads. There was also some misplaced bravado.
The bridegroom on top of the beast was seen raising his fists like a man shouting slogans that it looked that he might get his hands entangled in the power lines running overhead. Even the most striking feature of the spectacle, the bride walking with the jumbo’s tusks in her hands, was a violation. “Rules say that only the mahout can touch the tusks of a captive elephant,” said V.K. Venkitachalam of Heritage Animal Task Force. Let alone holding the tusk, she is not even supposed to walk so near the beast. Rules say that people should keep a distance of at least three metres from the elephant.
In a complaint shot off to the DGP and the head of forest force, Mr Venkitachalam speaks of yet another violation. “Here this procession took place through the public road causing serious problems for normal traffic. This is a clear violation of Kerala Motor Vehicle Rules,” he said. Mr Venkitachalam alleged that the elephant, Sreekantan, was now in the custody of Kerala Congress (B) leader K. Balakrishna Pillai. Forest department sources, however, did not confirm the charge....