Wayanad: Massive protests erupted in Mananthavady on Saturday following the tragic death of Panachiyil Ajeesh (Aji, 42), who was killed by a radio-collared wild elephant. The Karnataka forest department has identified the wild elephant as 'Belur Makhna'. The elephant was captured by the Karnataka forest department after the animal had turned a regular crop raider and unleashed havoc in human habitats in Belur in the Hassan forest division of Karnataka. The animal was tranquillized and captured on October 30, 2023. The animal was radio-collared and later released at the Moolahalle forest range close to the Kerala border.
Residents gathered in large numbers at the Gandhi Junction in Mananthavady town in protest, bringing the locality to a standstill. Traffic was completely halted for hours.
The elephant trampled Ajeesh after he sought refuge in a home compound at Chaligadda. In response to the attack and the perceived negligence, locals marched with Ajeesh's body from the Mananthavadi Medical College and staged a protest at the junction. They also demanded immediate action from officials to shoot the elephant which is roaming in the area. The residents demanded compensation of Rs 50 lakhs and a job for one of the family members of Ajeesh.
The locals also alleged that the District Collector and the DFO did not arrive at the spot even after hours of the incident. Later, the Collector Dr Renu Raj reached the protest site. The protesters did not allow the Collector and the District police chief T Narayanan to go near the place where the body of Ajeesh was kept at Gandhi junction. Although the cops tried to provide a security cover for the Collector, the people did not relent. The residents have told the authorities that unless their demands are met, they will not release the body for postmortem.
The vehicles of the Collector and the SP were blocked while they were on their way to attend a high-level meeting of police, forest and revenue officials at the office of the North Wayanad Forest Division. The public refused to give way to their vehicles. At the height of fury, the mob also asked both the officials to step out of the vehicle and walk, which both obliged.
Meanwhile, the hartal called by the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithy, Mananthavadi unit, to protest the elephant attack and death of the farmer, was complete in the Mananthavadi municipality and adjacent towns of Mananthavadi taluk on Saturday. The hotels, medical shops and hospitals have been exempted from the 'hartal'.
Minister for Forests and Wildlife A K Saseendran in a press release said that all efforts are on to tranquilize and capture the problem elephant. AK Saseendran also said that the forest officials are cautious this time as the department was at the receiving end over the death of 'Thanneer Komban', the animal which died after being tranquillized and translocated to Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Karnataka, recently.