THRISSUR: Cocking a snook at regulations about parading elephants at festivals, a grand display of pachyderms was held on the sidelines of the St Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral’s annual feast here. Not just that, fireworks display was conducted atop a wounded tusker. As many as 24 elephants were paraded during the church feast on October 2 and 3 without getting due permission and ensuring proper security, Heritage Animal Task Force secretary V K Venkatachalam told Express.
He said if more than 15 elephants were to be paraded, a fitness certificate from the Forest veterinarians and permission from the District Collector were needed. However, in this case there was no permission, he said. To make matters worse, a wounded elephant was also paraded.
Venkatachalam said the elephant, Cherpulassery Rajasekharan, which had sores all over its body was paraded and a fireworks display was conducted atop the tusker.
“As per rules, nobody has the freedom to display fireworks near the elephants and any pyrotechnic display should be done at least 100 metres away from the animals,” he said. “But here, the feast organisers misused the freedom to display fireworks by hosting the show atop the animal as a show of might.”
The fiery sparkles or incendiary components of the fireworks could have caused injury to
the animal or even made it panic, causing damage and loss of lives. In 2009, during the festival, a six-year-old elephant had killed his mahouts, said Venkatachalam.
A Jayamadhavan, ACF, Social Forestry, said they were unaware of such a function being conducted and they received no application in this regard. If a festival has been conducted in such magnitude, it is illegal and it would be investigated, he said. “The elephants cannot be paraded without getting fitness certificate and proper permission.” Venkatachalam said they have taken up the matter with the director of Project Elephant under the Ministry of Environment and Forests and written a letter to them. A copy of the complaint has also been forwarded to the Animal Welfare Board of India, the Chief Wild Life Warden, Kerala Police chief and Governor.
It was also forwarded to the district collectors of Kollam (as the elephant was brought from there) and Alappuzha (where Rajasekharan was taken after the church festival). In his letter, Venkatachalam said “no texts of Christianity favoured the use of any animals as part of its festivals. But here, they have used the elephants as a show of pomp discarding the teachings of the Bible. He said the organisers also refused to pay heed to the prelates who had displayed a huge hoarding in front of the church, warning believers to desist from parading jumbos on the premises of the church.”
Venkatachalam appealed to the authorities to punish the violators without delay. Based on the complaint, District Collector A Kowsigan has called a meeting of the elephant monitoring committee on October 9.
Fr Joseph Cheruvathur, the vicar of the Cathedral, said even though the elephant was paraded during the festival, it was not part of the church programme. “Permission was taken for other events, but the parade was not part of the schedule. Church has nothing to do with it,” said Fr Cheruvathur.He said it was not organised on the church premises, but at a school ground by some clubs for which the church could not be held responsible.