Cutting across party lines, people from six panchayats including tribal communities laid siege to Chalakudy-Anamala Road on Sunday in protest against a move to shift wild elephant Arikompan to Parambikulam.
People led by elected representatives from Vazhani, Palappilly, Mattathur, Pariyaram, Kodassery and Athirappilly panchayats participated in the roadblock agitation held at Vettilappara from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tribal communities from Pokalappara, Vettilappara and Vazhachal tribal colonies joined the agitation.
“It’s a People’s protest to survive. We will protest till the authorities change their decision to bring Arikompan to Parambikkulam,” Sanish Kumar Joseph, MLA, said.
Wild elephant menace is already severe in areas like Athirappilly, Vazhachal, Sholayar, Poringalkuthu and Parambikulam, say local residents. Kabali, another wild elephant which created threat for motorists in the Athirappilly-Valparai road, was in news sometime ago.
We are planning to make it a people’s agitation because this decision affects us the most, says Vazhachal tribal leader Geetha.
“Muthirachal, where the authorities are planning to release Arikompan is just 10 km from where we live now. There is another tribal colony Kuriayarkutty, which is just 7 km from Parambikulam. The authorities are mum about that colony. The five-member committee has given the suggestion to shift the elephant to Parambikulam without making any proper study on the situation. The government should chalk out some other plan to solve the issue. We are happy that people from all parties are joining the agitation,” she said.
“The wild elephants are already making our life miserable here. There was a group of 10 elephants in the area even yesterday. We are not able to cultivate anything. The elephants damage everything. Nobody is ready to marry our girls. No one wants to marry off daughters to boys of our area . We are not able to sell our land. Now they are trying to bring Arikompan too,” laments local people.
As it is a tourism hotspot, the protest affected the traffic. Long queues of vehicles were seen on both sides of the protest site. There were mild altercations between tourists and protesters.
The protesters will meet Forest Minister M.K. Saseendran, who is coming to Athirappilly to attend the Vana Souhruda Sadassu on Monday.