THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It was about 9 pm. Sobhana was feeding her grandson at her daughter Preethi’s hut when she heard a crushing sound outside. Suddenly, she felt the hut shaking and swaying.
“I jumped out of the backdoor with the kid in my arms. The mud wall crumbled just near my toes... a narrow escape. In the dark I saw the tusker staring at me. I was terrified. Somehow I ran to the nearby house holding the baby close to my chest. Luckily, the animal didn’t chase us,” her voice trembled when she recalled the incident.
Only Sobhana, 37, and two-year-old Sidharth were present at the house when a lone tusker attacked their house in the Muthippara tribal settlement on the night of July 18. The settlement falls in the Palode Forest Range under the limits of Peringammala panchayat. Her daughter Preethi and husband Deepu were at a relative’s place at that time.
Sobhana and her family now live in a small shed near the rugged foundation of their house. “The animal is frequently sighted in the surrounding forests. Lone tuskers are more violent than those in the herds. We may be attacked anytime,” Sobhana says. Her eyes full of fear. Officers of the forest and tribal welfare departments who visited them the next day of the attack promised help to build a new house. But nothing has materialised so far. The family has not even received the immediate assistance which they are entitled to.
Now they spend the daytime in the shed and move to a relative’s house in the nights. “We feel bad to take shelter at another house everyday. So we plan to cover the sides of the shed and stay here in the night as well. It’s risky, but there is no other way,” says Preethi. The only helping hand for the family was extended by the Palode Police who visited their house and gifted some kitchen wares.
A tribal family at Peringammala will spend this Onam in a makeshift shanty amidst the dense woods of the Palode Forest Range. Their hut was destroyed by a wild elephant in July. The family is yet to receive any help from the government