A young wild elephant rampaged through the heart of Mysore early on Wednesday, trampling a man to death and injuring four others. Two head of cattle also died in the elephantine fury.
Straying from its herd, the male elephant, aged between 8 and 10, entered the city along with a 12-year-old tusk-less male (a makhna). But it was the tusker which terrorised people as well as cattle in its six-hour rampage.
The makhna, which was separated from the tusker, fortunately did not attack people. Both elephants — believed to be part of a herd from the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, some 40 km from here — ran in different directions: one towards the Sewage Treatment Plant near R.S. Naidu Nagar (Kesare) where it stayed put, and the other towards the Shivarampet-Saraswatipuram areas.
Renukaswamy (55), a security guard at a bank ATM at Shivarampet, was gored to death. The attack was filmed live by journalists and amateurs on mobile phones. The hapless man ran into one of the bylanes of this crowded locality, only to be outrun by the animal. The attack was filmed by journalists and amateurs on mobile phones.
The injured, attacked in other residential localities, are Balakrishna (42), Siddamma (80), Velvet (52) and Pavan (24). While the first three were being treated in the K.R. Hospital, the fourth person was treated as an outpatient and discharged, said Commissioner of Police Sunil Agarwal.
The tusker trashed some vehicles also during its rampage, which began in the Bamboo Bazaar area around 5.15 a.m.
Panic gripped the city, whose most famous festival features resplendently caparisoned elephants, as news of the rampage spread. A live telecast drew curious people who turned up in large numbers to watch something straight from When Animals Attack.
Vehicles not spared
The tusker first attacked a cow tethered to a post on New Sayyaji Rao Road around 6 a.m., and fatally injured another in an adjacent neighbourhood. It then marched towards Mission Hospital Road and attacked octogenarian Siddamma, who was too frail to outpace the agitated jumbo.
“The elephants were first noticed at Bamboo Bazaar around 5.15 a.m. They panicked on seeing the crowds,” Satish Naidu, who tracked the young tusker all along its route, told The Hindu.
Anxious crowds began gathering wherever the tusker went. The police gathered in full strength to contain the surging crowds in and around the Saraswatipuram area, where the animal barged into some scrub near Dhobi Ghat.
Efforts were made to tranquillise the animal on two occasions, the first on the Oval Grounds, which failed. The young bull went on to damage some vehicles, including a KSRTC bus, along the main road and on the JSS Women's College premises.
Another dart was fired near Dhobi Ghat, where hundreds had gathered to see the unfolding drama. Jute ropes and shackles were kept ready before elephants from Mysore Palace took control of the situation. The young animal was finally led away around 11.30 a.m.
The makhna, which stayed put in its refuge, was successfully tranquillised in the afternoon. Four Dasara elephants — Arjuna, Abhimanyu, Gajendra and Srirama — which were brought from the forests, then took over. This was around 5.30 p.m.
Ajay Mishra, Field Director, Project Elephant, told The Hindu that the elephants were corralled now and would be safely released into the forests on Thursday.
As soon as the attack commenced in the area, which has a clutch of schools, the district administration declared a holiday for all educational institutions.
Karnataka Minister for Forests C.H. Vijayashankar, who visited Mr. Renukaswamy's house later, consoled the grieving family and promised a job to one of the members. He handed over a cheque for Rs. 5 lakh as compensation (as a special case) to the family.
The Minister later called on the injured in the hospital, where the condition of Siddamma is said to be serious.