People in Chinnakkanal and Santhanpara panchayats have expressed their disappointment over the Kerala High Court decision on Arikompan.
The residents of Sinkukandam and 301 Colony, the areas bearing the brunt of elephant attacks in Chinnakkanal panchayat, held a protest march to the kumki camp at Cement Palam on Thursday evening.
The protesters, including women and children, staged an hour-long demonstration demanding immediate steps to capture the wild tusker. They destroyed the barricades erected by the Forest department at Sinkukandam.
The joint action council formed to demand the capture of the tusker called for a 12-hour panchayat-level hartal in Idukki on Thursday. The hartal will be observed at Marayoor, Kanthalloor, Vattavada, Devikulam, Munnar, Edamalakkudy, Rajakkad, Rajakumari, Bisonvalley, Senapathi, Chinnakkanal, Udumbanchola and Santhanpara panchayats.
On Wednesday, the council blockaded the Kochi-Dhanushkodi National Highway road at Pallivasal.
Idukki district committee member of the Kerala Independent Farmers Association P.N. Sunil alleged that the forest department planned to convert 301 Colony and Sinkukandam as forest land. “We will not allow the Forest department to change our land as forest,” he said.
Susy, a resident of Sinkukandam, said people would continue the agitation till the capture of Arikompan. “We suspect some conspiracy behind the recent developments in the Arikompan case,” she said.
“If the government provides five acres for each family outside the Idukki district, we will be ready to hand over our land to the government,” she said.
Santhanpara panchayat president Liju Varghese said the people of Santhanpara and Chinnakkanal who eagerly awaited the court order were disappointed. “Thousands of people in these two panchayats suffer from repeated wild elephant attacks. They have been living here for over 60 years. How can people be relocated from their land,” he asked.
“We welcome those demanding against capturing Arikompan to live in Idukki. The petitioners should live some months in the areas suffering from elephant attacks and be aware of the situation,” Dean Kuriakose, Idukki MP, said.
Chief Forest Veterinary Surgeon Arun Zachariah said further steps would be taken as per the High Court’s directive.
A senior forest official said all steps were in place to dart the tusker. It had been decided that the kumkis (trained elephants) would be stationed for some more days at Chinnakkanal.