India, a plural society is undergoing the pangs of communalization at a rapid pace. In this process the religious minorities are targeted and subjected to violence, which is overtly justified. This communalisation did begin with the British introduced communal historiography, has a long journey and now any incident or tragedy is given a communal turn with ease as the communal forces are strong and they have built up a massive formal and informal media network. We saw this in case of Corona pandemic, when a section of media and many communal functionaries blamed Tablighi Jamaat for being Corona spreaders, for preparing Corona bomb and for undertaking Corona Jihad.
Back on the heels of this another tragedy which struck the nation has been given a communal turn. A 15 year old pregnant elephant Soumya, died in tragic circumstances on 27th May 2020 in Palakkad, Kerala. She had accidently eaten the fruit (Pine apple/Coconut?) filled with crackers. Her mouth burnt as crackers exploded, her lower jaw was damaged and she lost her life. There are many dimensions of the issue. Firstly the fruit was filled with crackers to scare off wild boars that damage the crops and farms. Elephant was the accidental victim. Pouncing with ferocity the BJP MP and former Minster of Environment and Forests, Maneka Gandhi lashed out with a tweet, full of inaccuracies and fully laced with communal biases, She attributed the event to have taken place in Malappuram, the Muslim majority district of Kerala and tweeted, “Mallapuram is known for its intense criminal activity, specially with regard to animals. No action has ever been taken against single poacher or wildlife killer so they keep doing it.”
In her statement to ANI (https://sabrangindia.in/article/malappuram-not-wild-west-madam-maneka-gandhi-open-letter) she said Malappuram is the most disturbed district in the country. As per her everyday something horrible is reported from the district. Not only all types of animals are killed, people are also killed in communal incidents. That happens there almost every day. Her tweet and the statement together picture Malappuram and Kerala in the most negative light but are totally based on falsehoods.
To begin with why she could not name Palakkad and named Malappuram? It is mostly due to the fact that Malappuram is a Muslim majority district. It was formed as a separate district in the second EMS Namboodripad ministry. The move was opposed by Bharatiya Janasangh, the previous avatar of BJP. So many districts have been formed in the country since then, not once BJP opposed that, but a Muslim majority district cannot be accepted by this party. Maneka also went to criticize Kerala for poaching and abuse of elephants in the state. One will partly agree with her that as elephants are put to use in religious functions and in other difficult tasks. But the point is; that is a phenomenon all over, more so in the neighboring Karnataka. One recalls Verappan and his smuggling of ivory. Even the religious use of elephants is there in many other states as well. Here the ex-Minister is quiet as Karnataka is currently being ruled by her party, while in Kerala with all the efforts for decades her party is not able to get any electoral foothold, while its parent organization, RSS, has fairly strong roots in the state.
Her statements about Malappuram are purely a concoction. The crime rate in this district is much lower than the worthy MPs own electoral constituency Sultanpur. As far as communal disturbance is concerned, just a sample will do. When in the wake of Babri demolition Mumbai, Surat, Bhopal were burning and many places in North India were experiencing the pangs of violence, Malappuram did not witness any violence.
As far as her statement that thousands of women are killed there, lesser said the better. Kerala is one state in the country, where sex ratio is the best. On the top of that among Muslims the sex ratio is better as the practice of female feticide is negligible, compared to the same among the Hindus.
Backing up her tweet the current Environment and Forest minister Javdekar added that, such incident, which has taken place in Malappuram are against Indian culture. The Minister with all information under his command did not even know that incident took place in Palakkad and not Malappuram. But of course as biases rule the roost currently Mr. Javdekar also wanted to target a Muslim majority district. Apart from the communal angle which has been instilled by these two worthies from BJP, the incidence has raised many and issues related to our treatment of animals.
The hypocrisy of BJP and company is very obvious. On one side it has unleashed the agenda of ‘Cow as Mother”, but at the same time the condition of cows in many a cowsheds in BJP ruled states is abysmal. One recalls the incidence of Hingonia in Rajasthan when during BJP regime, hundreds of cows in this cowshed died due to starvation and illnesses (https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/jaipur/cows-died-of-malnourishment-sickness-at-hingonia-last-year/articleshow/57696871.cms). At a time when India is peaking in the incidents of lynching in the name of cow, India is also coming to the forefront as the leading exporter of beef. Interestingly many or most of the exporters are non Muslims!
At the time of writing while the major focus of ruling party is to practice divisive politics, the need is to formulate norms for use of animals, which are kind and compassionate. Incidentally when all this is being talked about in the society, one appreciates the concern for the pregnant, would be mothers and the unborn child, one is reminded of Gujarat where the pregnant mothers’ womb was pierced and the unborn child was hung on Trishul (Trident). Also one is deeply concerned about another would be mother, Safoora Zargar, an M Phil Student at Jamia, who is behind the bars, denied bail for participating in the anti CAA protests. Where is our compassion? Is it reserved only for elephants of Kerala?
Dr Ram Puniyani was a professor in biomedical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, and took voluntary retirement in December 2004 to work full time for communal harmony in India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org