Factually speaking: Maneka Gandhi’s claims on Kerala elephants, Malappuram crime rate are baseless

The tragic death of a pregnant wild elephant in Kerala’s Palakkad district last month has triggered a nationwide uproar. Animal rights activists, celebrities, politicians and other citizens have raised concern over the treatment meted out to animals in the state and have demanded strict action against the culprits.

The pregnant elephant died in Palakkad district after she reportedly consumed a fruit that was stuffed with firecrackers. The resulting blast injured her mouth grievously. She could not eat thereafter. To relieve her pain and burning sensation, she entered a river, stood in the water with her mouth open, but succumbed to her injuries after a long struggle.

Since then, the tragedy has hogged national headlines, while social media has seen an outpouring of grief and anger. But this buzz has also fuelled a disinformation campaign that suits communal politics.

For the record, initially, several media reports, including by India Today, said that the elephant died in Kerala’s Malappuram district. However, this was corrected when the state forest department clarified that the death took place in the neighbouring Palakkad district.

Speaking to India Today TV, Kerala’s Chief Wildlife Warden Surendra Kumar said, “The incident happened under Mannarkad division in Palakkad district. The elephant died on May 27. On May 28, we registered a case and the probe is underway.”

POLITICS & THE MALAPPURAM ANGLE

While initial media reports did get the district wrong before eventually correcting it, there appears to be a concerted political effort to link the elephant’s death to Malappuram, a Muslim-majority district in Kerala, and give the incident a communal tone.

Attacking the Kerala government for its failure to nab the culprits, senior BJP leader and former Union minister Maneka Gandhi in an interview to news agency ANI said Malappuram is the “worst and most violent” district in India. She alleged that women and animals are routinely killed in the district and that it is a hub of communal conflicts.

“Look at the crime rate in Malappuram. Communal conflicts are highest there. Malappuram is perhaps the most disturbed district in the country. Every day there is some incident or the other there. They have killed so many women…they create Hindu-Muslim tensions, chop off people’s arms. The situation in Malappuram is very scary. It seems as if the Kerala government is scared of Malappuram…

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