Whereas the rest of the world is worried that India is becoming the next Covid-19 hotspot, the country itself is only focused on the death of a pregnant elephant. Hindu nationalists have used the event to stir a hate campaign against Muslims. Prime Minister Modi, businessmen, famous local actors and athletes have all demanded that the perpetrators be punished.
A first arrest has been made and everyone is looking at their smartphone news updates for any tidbit of new information.
The wild elephant, about 15 years old and pregnant, died last week in a river in the national park of the Palakkad district (in the state of Kerala). The animal, surrounded by other elephants, was cooling in the water of the Velliyar river to try and ease the enormous pain in its mouth. Part of it’s mouth had been blown away after eating a pineapple stuffed with fireworks.
Indian farmers use this method, popularly referred to as “snares”, in their battle against wild animals, especially bears. Some farmers use fireworks, others chemicals and pieces of glass in their efforts to protect their harvests which guarantee their livelihoods.
Park rangers did nothing
Not only the incident with the revolting “weapon” brings the Hindu anger to a boiling point, but also the fact that park rangers left the elephant on its own for days to die in the river.
Millions of Indians, who revere elephants as ‘holy’ animals, demand in a petition that in addition to the perpetrators, the park rangers would also be arrested and prosecuted. Police and the justice department in the state of Kerala are now under immense pressure.
Not only are prominent businessmen, actors and athletes, including Ratan Tata, Akshay Kumar, horrified by the incident, National Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also demanding that “this matter be given absolute priority” by the state government. “This event is extra inhumane because the elephant was pregnant,” said Modri’s Minister for the Environment, Prakash Javadekar. “The perpetrators must be caught at all costs”
Whilst the rest of the world might be wondering why Indians aren’t focused more on their exploding Covid-19 infection rates instead of turning to a dead elephant, the explanation possibly lies in the fact that the official Indian religion of Hinduism has a special relationship with elephants. Whereas most people around the world are aware that cows are sacred in India, less is known about the Hindu affection for elephants.
This is because one of the best known deities in the Hindu pantheon is Ganesha, the son of Shiva and Parvati who has the head of an elephant.