Of a tusker and its indigenous identity

Wild tusker Peelandi alias Chandrasekharan

Wild tusker Peelandi alias Chandrasekharan  


Tribals of Attappady see a feudalistic mindset in the renaming of their favourite jumbo

It is nothing but appropriation of identity, they say. At a time when indigenous people across the world are struggling over names imposed on them by outsiders, Kerala’s tribal heartland Attappady is now witnessing a rare kind of protest with local people disapproving Forest Department’s renaming their favourite tamed tusker Peelandi as Chandrasekharan.

Several petitions from Attappady have reached Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s office seeking his intervention to reclaim ‘the indigenous identity’ of the tusker, presently an inmate of elephant training camp at Kodanad in Ernakulam district. “We want our Peelandi back in Attappady with his tribal identity. Though he was captured and rehabilitated in Kodanad last year after he killed nine people and engaged in continuous crop raids, we wish to have him back in Attappady, as we venerate the elephant as a divine creature. We will not approve his new name Chandrasekharan, which reflects a feudal mindset of forest officials,” clarifies Rangan, the village elder of Sambarkod tribal colony where Peelandi once roamed around.

“Like tribespeople everywhere else, we too are being denied the right to choose names for ourselves. Each tribal name is a declaration to the world of who we are. In the case of Peelandi, there is an emotional angle to the name. He was named Peelandi as a mark of respect for tribal elder Peelandi, who was the first among the nine people killed by the elephant,” recalls K. A. Ramu, tribal leader and social worker.

Residents of Sambarkod, Upper Sambarkod and Bodi Challa tribal colonies now demand shifting of Peelandi to the local facility of the Forest Department in Attappady to help during emergencies. A delegation will meet Forest Minister K. Raju soon. It was on November 7 last year that Peelandi created headlines when 54 elders and 11 children from Attappady travelled on a special bus to Kodanad to pay respects to the tusker, which, according to them, was relocated at the behest of the powerful settler community. They bowed before the elephant with folded palms and called him Bhagawan and Swamy.


“We were upset when he was captured last year using Kumki elephants. Many of us cried when he was taken to Kodanad,” recalls Rangan. “As per tribal practice in Attappady, crop raids by elephants have a divine twist to it. Elephants and wild animals are inseparable from our earthly existence, as we live in harmony with nature. The settler community was upset, as the elephant destroyed their banana plantations,” said S. Pazhaniswamy, a tribal folk musician and member of Forest Department’s elephant squad.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 10:40:30 PM |

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