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Kerala elephant owners threaten to boycott Thrissur Pooram after govt bans most popular elephant from the festival

Elephants which are physically not fit, including the elephants which are in a state of musth, will not be allowed to be taken to Thrissur town from May 12 to 14.

On Wednesday, in an emergency meeting held by the Elephant Owners Federation, they have decided not to send elephants for parading in the Thrissur Pooram celebrations. This was done following the decision of the district administration to ban the famous elephant ‘Thechikottukavu Ramachandran’ from parading.

Federation president P. Sasikumar alleged that the government was trying to disturb festivals. “There is a conspiracy of forest officials behind the ban on Thechikottukavu Ramachandran,” he said.

The 53-year-old Ramachandran has been branded as the most dangerous elephant in the state, it has killed 13 people and 3 elephants in its entire lifetime. However, the elephant also has a massive fan following and is loved by the people of the state.

Several Facebook users posted the message ‘Save Ramachandran’ on the Thrissur district collectors page demanding the ban to be lifted. Fans have accused the government of interfering with their traditions.

On February 8, Ramachandran had killed two people. He is allegedly blind on one eye and has digestion problems as well.

“He can’t see with his left eye. Anything that comes close to him he perceives as danger, and therefore pushes them away. This is how many of those deaths happened,” says VK Venkitachalam of Heritage Animal Task Force, an NGO for elephant welfare.

A committee examined his health and submitted a report to the Chief Wildlife Warden against parading the elephant at festivals, following which Ramachandran was banned from parading by the District Collector.

Forest Minister K. Raju said that decision was taken keeping the safety of people in mind. A petition would be heard against the ban on May 10.

A meeting would be held on Thursday headed by Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran in order to settle the differences. The Kochi and Guruvayur Devaswom Boards informed the government that they will provide elephants for Thrissur Pooram.

The Thrissur Collector in an address to the media explained that the decision to ban has not been lifted and that the ban wasn’t for a particular elephant.  Every year a decision would be taken on the ban of elephants with regard to Thrissur Pooram. Only after getting a fitness certificate from a veterinary doctor is the elephant allowed to parade. She said a final decision on Ramachandran would be taken after the HC hearing.

She added that elephants which are physically not fit, including the elephants which are in a state of musth, will not be allowed to be taken to Thrissur town from May 12 to 14.

Kerala Elephant Owners’ Federation secretary K Sasikumar said, “We are willing to co-operate but the forest minister has made a controversial statement saying owners were torturing jumbos for money. It is an insensitive comment and we have decided not to dispatch our jumbos to any festival.”

Sasikumar blamed the Forest Minister for the current standoff. He said that the minister promised that Ramachandran would be allowed to parade with reasonable restrictions. He alleges that the minister has gone back on his word.

The Forest Minister in a press conference had clarified that parading Thechikottukavu Ramachandran at the Pooram is ‘undesirable’ and that it wasn’t a strict order banning the elephant.

The Thrissur Pooram is Kerala’s biggest cultural festival in which elephants play a very important role. The main festival begins on May 13th. It’s held every year at the Vadakkunnathan Temple in Thrissur. The festival includes traditional percussion musical instruments, caparisoned elephants, decorative umbrellas and pyrotechnics.

The Thrissur Pooram has faced several issues on the past including a PIL against the use of elephants in temple functions and also the issue of firecrackers which the SC had finally allowed to be used in the Pooram.

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