Kattappana, Idukki: Amid the rising tension between the Catholic church and Kerala government over rising incidents of human-wildlife conflict in the state, a bishop on Tuesday criticised the forest department.
Kanjirappally bishop Mar Jose Pulickal said the forest department was trying to portray the recent incident in which two people were killed by a wild gaur at Kanamala near Erumely as an isolated event.
"The government and other stakeholders should not forget the fact that a wild gaur doesn't have voting rights. Will they stay mum if a wild gaur enters the state assembly or a party office," a visibly agitated Pulickal asked a gathering at Kattappana in Idukki district.
"It can't be seen as an isolated incident. According to the forest department's own data, 735 people were killed in attacks by wild animals in Kerala in the past six years. As many as 121 people were killed between June 2021 to December 2022. Who is responsible for this? Were they killed for creating trouble in the forests," the bishop asked.
"Many are struggling to protect the wild animals. Political parties, government and forest department are doing a lot. But you should not forget the fact that the wild animals will not vote you to power," he said.
He said if a wild gaur gets into a party office or assembly, there would not be any delay in shooting it down.
Three persons were killed on Friday morning in two different incidents of attack by gaurs at Erumeli and Anchal in Kottayam and Kollam districts respectively.
Chackochan (70) and Thomas (71) were killed in Erumeli after a gaur that ventured into a rubber plantation in Kottayam district attacked them around 8 am. Meanwhile, Samuel (64) was killed at a place near Anchal (about 90 km from Erumeli), located in the eastern part of Kollam district in a separate gaur attack.
In a related incident, another gaur caused panic among local residents when it strayed into a habitation near Chalakudy (which is at a distance of about 120 km from Erumeli), located in Thrissur district.
Reacting strongly to the incidents, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) had asked the government to protect the lives of people the way it safeguards wild animals. Responding to the criticism, Forest minister A K Saseendran said the bishops' council's statement was provocative.