With both the Kerala government and High Court declining to interfere with the parading of elephants during the annual ‘Thrissur Pooram’, the over 200-year-old famous festival is set to be held in all its pomp and glory tomorrow. A division bench, comprising justices A M Shaffique and P V Asha, today (28th April 2015) declined to interfere in the PIL filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, New Delhi, and posted the case after May 20, when the High Court reopens after vacation. The petitioner had sought directions to the state and central government to ensure that the elephants are not paraded during the pooram festivities without permission from the Animal Welfare Board of India. Bringing relief to the Pooram organisers, the state government has also made it clear that it would not interfere with the age-old traditional convention.
All conventions held during the Thrissur Pooram, including parading of elephants, will be observed. Kerala Forests Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan told that if anyone has any complaints with regard to the upkeep of the animals during the festivities, they can bring it to the notice of the government and the government will look into it. But there is no question of any interference with the convention of the pooram. The government has already issued various guidelines on maintenance of captive elephants in the state.
V K Venkatachalam, Heritage Animal Task Force chief, an animal rights group, which has been campaigning against parading of elephants for various temple festivities, said they would continue their fight and move the Supreme Court if violations occur during the pooram tomorrow. According to figures compiled by the Heritage Animal Task Force, captive elephants have killed 526 people in 15 years in Kerala alone. Venkatachalam claimed that at least 70 caparisoned elephants would be made to stand underthe scorching sun with an average of four people atop from 11 AM to 2 PM and another batch of 30 elephants of the main pooram organisers — Thiruvambady and Paramekkavu devaswoms — would stand continuously from 11 AM to 9 PM in the night. “As part of security, it has been decided this year to chain the feet of the elephants together to ensure that there is no free movement for the animal which is a clear violation of rules under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,” he charged.
Parading of caparisoned elephants accompanied by performance by traditional percussionists is the main attraction of the pooram festival, which has over the years become a main event in the tourism calendar of the state. The famous ‘Kudamattom’ (exchange of ornamental umbrellas) atop the 30 elephants, who stand face to face, in Thekkinkadu ground in the front of the Vadakkunnathan Siva Temple is a spectacular sight for those visiting the annual festival, being held since 1798. This is the 217th edition of the festival, which will conclude on April 28 with a grand fireworks display.
Hollywood actress Pamela Anderson had also written to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy asking him not to use elephants for the festival. In her letter, Anderson, a long time People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India patron offered to contribute the cost of providing 30 life-sized, realistic and portable elephants made of bamboo and papier-mache to replace live elephants. PETA said capturing an elephant is prohibited under The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Yet many captive elephants are thought to have been captured illegally from the wild, separated from their mothers and transported to Kerala.