NEW DELHI – As is common in India these days, a trivial incident in a remote corner of the country has become a hot topic for prime time debate. Death of an elephant in Kerala turned out to be a Hindu-Muslim issue, thanks to the indiscretion of a overzealous animal lovers and Member of Parliament (MP) from the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP).
Soon after the news of a pregnant elephant’s death hit the headlines, Maneka Gandhi kicked up a row by linking the incident to Muslims majority district of Malappuram in Kerala. However, forest officials set the matter straight informing that the incident had taken place in a village close to a forest in Pallakad, an adjacent district.
Falsely claiming that the incident happened in Malappuram, the former minister called district “India’s most violent district” simply because it is predominantly Muslim. Some people, who called out Gandhi, say her remarks smacks of Islamophobia. They said she was communalising an “unfortunate” incident.
Gandhi made her remarks against Malappuram in a tweet and also while talking to ANI, a news agency. The tweet posted on her official handle read: “Malappuram is known for its criminal activities especially with regards to animals. No action has ever been taken against a single poacher or wild life killer, so they keep doing it. I can only suggest that you call/mail and ask for action.”
It's murder,Malappuram is famous for such incidents, it's India's most violent district.For instance, they throw poison on roads so that 300-400 birds & dogs die at one time: Maneka Gandhi,BJP MP&animal rights activist on elephant's death after being fed cracker-stuffed pineapple pic.twitter.com/OtLHsuiuAq
— ANI (@ANI) June 3, 2020
Gandhi, who identifies herself as animal rights activist, accused the people of the Malappuram of throwing poison on roads to kill birds.
A news outlet, citing forest officials, pointed out that the death of the pregnant elephant took place after it left the forests in Silent Valley and wandered in a neighbouring village in search of food.
Reports said that the elephant succumbed to injuries caused by eating a pineapple- stuffed with firecrackers. According to IB Times, forest official ruled out the possibility of someone deliberately feeding pineapple to the elephant with the intention of killing. “The animal must have found it lying somewhere and must have consumed it herself.”
People fill fruits with firecrackers as snares against wild animals to prevent them from damaging their life and property, the report cited official saying.
Gandhi’s comments were published in several portals and newspapers including Hindustan Times, New18, Danik Jagran, Zee News, First post. The reports also pushed forward the false claims that the incident happened in Malappuram without cross checking the information.
The tragic and heart wrenching death of an Elephant in Kerala is now being turned into communal discourse. There is no low which is too low for Sanghis
— Joy (@Joydas) June 3, 2020
Many BJP supporters wrote comments under Gandhi’s tweet targeting Muslims for the death of the elephant accusing them of hatred for animals. The highlighted the Muslim majority demographics of Malappuram to back their false claims and bigotry.
— Chayan Chatterjee (@Satyanewshi) June 3, 2020
However, Muslim voices familiar with the southern state were quick to retort and call out the bigotry of Gandhi and her minions.
Ayesha Renna, a Jamia student activist who originally hails from Kerala, said Gandhi was using the death of an elephant to “demonise” the people of Muslim majority Malappuram.
The incident of killing #Elephant took place in Palakkad district of Kerala.
Muslim majority district Malappuram has always been a target for the sangh brigade for known reasons.
This 'Animal right activist' has used the opportunity to demonise the people of the district. https://t.co/P3bMa9JTqW
— Aysha Renna (@AyshaRenna) June 3, 2020
Journalist Asheem PK said that the Gandhi deliberately blamed Malappuram to make an attempt of communalizing the incident.
The elephant incident in fact happened in Palakkad district. Maneka Gandhi has deliberately cited Malappuram, a Muslim majority district, and now it's been changed into a communal issue https://t.co/JbneMN7zTK
— Asheem PK (@peekeymon) June 3, 2020
Similarly, another student Afeef Ahmad wrote on Facebook that blaming people of Malappuram for the “unfortunate” incident that took place in Palakkad district is “xenophobia” and Islampophobia”.
Moreover, some people also called out celebrities who were quick to condemn the death of the pregnant elephant for their silence over the daily hate crimes and violence against Muslims. They said it was hypocritical on part of the celebrities to maintain silence on the violece against humans but speak over animal rights.
It is strange that all celebrities heard about it but they are completely clueless about countless incidents of Muslims lynched by mobs, Delhi pogrom, CAA-NRC, plight of migrants, witch hunting of Muslim students which continues to this day! https://t.co/BWsITGYxIY
— Sharjeel Usmani (@SharjeelUsmani) June 4, 2020