- Last rites at Dabballikatte Forest core area in Hassan today
- Forest Minister holds emergency meeting; likely to order probe
Hassan/Bengaluru: The last rites of 64-year-old elephant Arjuna began with puja rituals at 12 noon today. The pachyderm will be eventually buried with full State honours and Forest Department honours. The eight-time Golden Howdah carrier of Mysuru Dasara festivities was gored to death yesterday following a confrontation with a wild elephant in the Yeslur range forest of Sakleshpur taluk in Hassan district.
At around 1.30 pm, the process of the last rites were on at Dabballikatte KFDC Forest core area under the leadership of S.V. Prahallada Rao, the Chief Priest of the Mysore Palace. Last night, the royal family despatched puja materials for the last rites as per custom and traditions. The post-mortem was scheduled to be held after the rituals.
The core area with thick vegetation was cleared by the Forest Department staff this morning with the help of earth movers. A pendal was set up for the staff and veterinarians to conduct the post-mortem. People from far-off villages, Raitha Sangha activists and estate workers had gathered at the place from early in the morning.
Upset at the absence of senior Forest Department officers, Raitha Sangha activists took the junior staff to task for their alleged disrespect to Arjuna who was the star Dasara performer. Some of the activists demanded that the carcass must be buried at Balle Camp where Arjuna resided after retirement and the burial place must be next to the legendary Drona, who was laid to rest there.
Hundreds of villagers lined up today to pay their last respects. They had brought flowers with them and showered on carcass.
Some of the local tribal leaders alleged that the Forest Department had caused Arjuna’s death by misfiring the tranquiliser dart at him immobilising the giant in the face of the wild elephant attack. They demanded an impartial investigation.
The earth movers had dug up a huge pit to bury Arjuna. Mahout Vinu, who used to take care of Arjuna was inconsolable. As he was brought to the burial site, he broke down, loudly wailing the loss of Arjuna, who was like his family member. Addressing the crowd, Vinu said that he has lost his friend and it was an unbearable loss. After the priest performed the puja ceremonies, Arjuna’s tusks would be removed and a post-mortem was scheduled to be done.
Minister holds emergency meeting
Meanwhile, Minister for Forest, Ecology and Environment Eshwar Khandre called for an emergency meeting with the District Ministers and MLAs of districts where wild elephant menace is rampant. The meeting was called in Belagavi Suvarna Soudha where the winter session is being held.
MLAs of the district including A.S. Ponnanna, who is also the Legal Advisor to the Chief Minister, Kodagu District Minister N.S. Boseraju, Ministers K.J. George and K.N. Rajanna were also present.
The meeting discussed the ways and means to combat the wild elephant menace and also decided to investigate the circumstances that led to the death of Arjuna in the wake of reports of negligence. The Ministers took stock of the reports of negligence that led to Arjuna’s death as alleged by wildlife activists. Further details are awaited.