Idukki residents observe hartal to protest against court's decision on 'Arikomban'

Residents in eight panchayats of Kerala's Idukki district have started observing a day-long hartal to protest against the court's decision on Mission Arikomaban. Photo: Manorama News

Idukki: Residents in eight panchayats of Kerala's Idukki district have started observing a day-long hartal to protest against the court's instruction to not capture rogue wild elephant ‘Arikomban’.

The High Court on Wednesday denied permission to tranquillise and capture the tusker, and constituted a five-member expert committee to suggest measures to prevent the jumbo from posing threat to the residents in the area.

The people’s hartal will be observed from 6 am to 6 pm. Panchayats Rajakkad, Senapati, and Baison valley have been excluded from the hartal due to the ongoing examinations for students.

Meanwhile, the team of vets and four ‘kumki’ elephants deployed to capture the tusker, will continue in Idukki till April 5, when the court takes up the case again. The expert committee will also prepare a report on alternative measures as per the court's direction within three days.

According to locals, the wild tusker has trampled 10 people to death so far besides destroying numerous shops and homes. The elephant is named Arikomban (rice tusker) because of its love for rice.

The court's observations

The Kerala High Court on Wednesday warned the State of strict action if it found that the area in Idukki district where the wild tusker was roaming had been an elephant habitat before tribal people were resettled there.

A bench of Justices A K Jayasankaran Nambiar and Gopinath P called for records and reports on the resettlement of tribal people in the area back in 2000 and said, "If it was an elephant habitat, you had no business resettling people there and putting them in danger."

The court said that resettling people in an elephant habitat was the "root of the entire problem".

The court, however, declined to issue any direction in the interim for capture and captivity of the elephant, Arikomban, so named as it raids ration shops and houses for rice.

"As for the animal in question, we find that we are dealing with a bull elephant, currently in 'Masth', and moving in the company of his herd of females and calves. Any attempt at capturing the animal at this stage would be dangerous not only to the personnel deployed for the said exercise but also to the animal," it said.

The bench said its view was based on the various instances of cruelty to captive elephants in Kerala, and also the deplorable conditions in which they are held captive in various locations across the State.

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