Row erupts over Thanneer Komban investigation team after allegations over nexus involving probe team

Controversy ensues in Wayanad as allegations of a nexus surround the Thanneer Komban investigation team. The row erupts after claims of a connection between the probe team and Canadian filmmaker Sangita Iyer.
File- Environmentalists holding a protest march in Kochi seeking justice for the 'Thanneer Komban'.
File- Environmentalists holding a protest march in Kochi seeking justice for the 'Thanneer Komban'.Express Photo

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At a time when Wayanad is witnessing a volatile environment following the death of 46-year-old farmer Ajeesh in an elephant attack, the controversy over the probe team assigned to investigate the death of tusker Thanneer Komban, has been continuing unabated. Wayanad based Kerala Independent Farmers Association (KIFA) has alleged a nexus between Chief Conservator of Forest (Palakkad) K Vijayanand, leader of the team assigned to probe on the death of Thanneer Komban, with Canadian documentary filmmaker Sangita Iyer.

A five-member expert committee headed by Vijayanand has begun probe into the sequence of events that prompted the forest authorities to tranquillize Thanneer Komban and relocate it to Bandipur forest in Karnataka. Vijayanand and his team had travelled to Bandipur last week. That's when allegations were raised against the CCF K Vijayanand.

TNIE had reported on February 4 on how the head of the expert committee probing the death of Thanneer Komban has come under a cloud of smoke. Since the last six months, KIFA has been knocking all doors including the Indian Embassy in Canada and Enforcement Directorate seeking a probe against Sangita for her activities in the name of Asian elephant conservation.

"I strongly doubt that Sangita's actions have anti-national elements as she is collecting a huge amount of foreign funds as donations in the name of wildlife conservation. Since Sangita is a Canadian citizen, she cannot buy land in India to set up elephant corridor in Nilambur as she is only an Overseas Citizenship of India card holder issued by the Consulate General of India, Toronto, Canada as per a RTI application we gave to them,”, Alex Ozhukayil, chairman, KIFA told TNIE.

But Sangita vehemently rejected Alex’s allegations that she raised Rs 2.50 crore through crowd funding. She told TNIE that the process towards the land purchase began during early 2023 where she raised $50,000 (Rs 41. 48 lakhs) for the land purchase and ended up spending $60,000 (49.78 lakhs) which include the expenditure for legal documents, travel and registration.

"There is no nexus between me and Vijayanand. We have all the paperwork to prove that we followed proper procedures - from conducting site surveys through the forest department and procuring the plantation land to obtaining the land documents and finally offering the plantation land to Kerala forest department. Let them launch a probe. We actually welcome this probe, so these baseless allegations can be quelled once and for all”, said Sangita whose documentary, ‘Gods in Shackles’ was shown in the Kerala Legislative Assembly during 2016.

For Sangita, this isn’t her first project. She had launched an elephant rehabilitation programme in the Kottoor Elephant Rehab Center in Trivandrum in 2019. " We had also conducted the Gentle Giant Summit, and youth empowerment programs in 2019. But for every single project there’s been opposition in Kerala because it seems people don’t want to change, as it is inconvenient. It’s a real sad situation that when people try to do good for the state, they’re being targeted", added Sangita.

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