On April 16th, Kerala witnessed a wonderful display of harmony and all the virtues that make India the oldest civilisation alive amidst the perils of modernity. The usual suspects, the media and NGO activism, tried their chance to make use of the unfortunate fire accident during a temple festival to obstruct Thrissur Pooram, one of the most spectacular event on the planet. But contrary to the general perception the media provides, Kerala witnessed a collective action of ordinary folks in solidarity with the Pooram organisers and the event took place successfully with an extensive participation by people of all political as well as religious hues.
Antagonised by the orchestrated campaign by T V channels asking for a ban on fireworks and elephant pageantries in temple festivals, the pooram lovers of Thrissur decided to keep out anti-Pooram media from the event. Although posters came up on the festival grounds calling out the hypocrisy of the media that campaign against the festivals but to tap the TRP hike and advertisement revenue through live telecasts, the organisers of pooram made all arrangements for the media personnel including women to cover the festival. After the major events of the pageantry were over, a group of people near the media gallery started sloganeering against the mainstream media. Slowly, more and more people joined the crowd. The Pooram ground witnessed a very peaceful but massive protest against the dishonesty of the mainstream media. Sadly, the news remains unreported.
It would be foolish if one thinks that the media stayed silent or forgot the disgrace. The very next day, NDTV came up with a story of ‘Elephant torture’ during Thrissur pooram. If the allegations before Pooram was about keeping the elephants under the sun, the people replied to it by providing facilities for the tuskers to cool their body. On the way to the temple as well as on the festival grounds, people were ready with water, wet sacks for the jumbos to stand over it.
The folks of Thrissur enthusiastically fed elephants with cucumbers, watermelons etc to keep them hydrated. Don’t think the elephants attending the festivals come directly to for the event without any preparations. Elephants went through three levels of scrutinization — by committee, by Forest Dept and by expert vets from the Animal Husbandry Dept. And they had ensured that each animal is free of illnesses and wounds or abscesses. All relevant documents were verified by the Forest Dept including the microchip implants using a scanner. This virtually ensured that legalities and Welfare issues are taken care of.
Unaware of these legalities, or misled by a set of furious NGO activists, NDTV telecasted a video of an elephant with “wound” with a headline, “
“Elephants Keep Up Thrissur Pooram Tradition, Black Paint Masking Injuries”
What is the reality?
The allegations that there were injured animals is baseless as the video shows animals with old healed callus. What is being claimed as black paint is a natural concoction of Camphor, Turmeric and Neem oil — an excellent remedy for external injuries which also acts as a fly repellant.
If Welfare was the objective of these self-proclaimed animal rights groups, then they should realise that tarnishing the image of someone intentionally and baselessly is not going to help and rather doing more harm than good. Several of the festivals that have mushroomed in the past decade or so often employ elephants with all kinds of ailments — this mostly includes church festivals where head lifting is a major sport. While the activists remain calm and keep quiet to those incidents, their adrenaline rush to “expose” Thrissur pooram undoubtedly is nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt. Media, which is supposed to take a balanced view, supporting them is, even cheaper.
All said and done, there are flaws in the system. But what needs to be done is not digging one’s own nose and dirtying things but cleaning it up and changing it for better. And the winds of change has started blowing. Wait and watch !