Misinformation around death of elephant in India sparks off hate campaign against Muslims

The death of a 15-year-old elephant in Pakkad District of the  Indian state of Kerala, first, sparked off outrage in India and also, hatred towards the Muslim community.

The wild elephant allegedly ate a pineapple filled with firecrackers that exploded in its mouth, leaving it in searing pain as it walked around the village for days, according to media reports.

The elephant silently walked into the Velliyar river and died there.

The controversy started when BJP parliamentarian, Maneka Gandhi, tweeted and claimed that the incident happened in Malappuram , a Muslim majority district.

“It’s murder. Malappuram is famous for such incidents, it’s India’s most violent district,” she told the ANI news agency on Wednesday.

Following on these lines, another BJP Union Minister Prakash Javadekar repeated Maneka Gandhi’s statement that the killing happened “in Malappuram, Kerala” and the central government has taken a “very serious note” of it, as reported by AltNews.

Major Indian media outlets also put out incorrect information leading the people to believe that incident took place in Malappuram district (a Muslim majority district) and not Pakkad. And also, mis-reporting that the elephant was ‘fed’ the pineapple.

The initial probe suggests that the wild animal was not directly fed a pineapple laden with firecrackers but she may have accidentally consumed it.

KK Sunil Kumar, Mannarkkad Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), stated that it is a common practice in forest areas for locals to place country bombs to keep away wild animals from agricultural land.

Other usual suspects who claimed that the incident took place in Malappuram were Arun PudurPayal Rohatgi and @IAmMayank_. Pudur wrote, “Now tell me about 100% literacy & who is majority in Mallapuram?”, reports AltNews

Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar also claimed that the incident occurred in Malappuram.

These statements by the senior BJP leaders triggered a storm of anger on social media, with hundreds of posts suggesting the perpetrator could be a Muslim, as reported by AlJazeera

All of this happened despite the Chief Minister of Kerala reporting that the incident happened in Pakkad and not Mallapuram. NDTV and other news outlets corrected the misinformation later.

“Seeing all the hatred on the pregnant elephant’s killing in Kerala, need to add something. The elephant was found dead in the Velliyar river which flows through Palakkad district,” wrote Dhanya Rajendran, editor-in-chief of southern India-based The News Minute website, on Twitter.

“There is a targeted campaign against Kerala, Malappuram. People including Union Ministers involved in campaign against Kerala. If it was a misconception, they would’ve corrected it. But the fact that they are not correcting shows its deliberate,” the Chief Minister tweeted.

The state of Kerala is governed by the opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Meanwhile, many Indian celebrities came under a scanner from the public when they posted in support of animal rights. Indian Cricket Team captain, Virat Kohli, was amongst many who were criticized on staying silent on atrocities on minorities across the globe, including India in past months while speaking against the killing of animals.

The investigation of the elephant’s death is ongoing and the exact details of the incident are yet to be determined.

Journalist Dhanya Rajendra tweeted details about the postmortem report which says, “Injuries in the oral cavity, most likely due to an explosive blast in the mouth.”

Three suspects have been identified till now and one arrested, as reported by TheOutlook.


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