Dear Justice Katju,
I happened to read your opinion piece in The Week about the savagely violent killing of an innocent, pregnant elephant in Kerala by feeding her fruits laced with firecrackers and it left me aghast, given the positions you’ve held including as a judge of the apex court of our nation and as Chairman of the Press Council of India.
It was evident that even before you started writing your article, you had made up your mind that you wanted to give a clean chit to one particular community, which is more disturbing when one considers that your previous vocation required you to be impartial.
Your irresponsible introduction - "In India, Muslims are the scapegoats", was made without any specific evidence, and even before the investigations for the case began. You were ready with your clean chit even before the culprits were identified.
Your first line almost seemed to imply that the poor elephant was at fault for eating a pineapple laced with crackers, even though no one can say with certainty what actually happened to the poor elephant.
You also went on to blame luminaries like Ratan Tata, Virat Kohli and animal activists, stating they were ‘lamenting as if the heavens had fallen’. You dismissed their concern by making it appear as if it was unnecessary over-enthusiasm. Your absolute indifference and lack of sympathy for the harmless animal was appalling, to say the least.
Even the timely and much needed intervention of the honourable Union Minister Shri Prakash Javdekar and senior BJP leader and ardent animal activist Smt. Maneka Gandhi appeared to irk you.
You pointed fingers at them and blamed them for ‘jumping into the fray and trying to politicise the issue’.
Since a judge must know his or her facts, here are some facts for you. The confusion over the location of the forest area was based on the initial reportage. The elephants stay in a forest area which falls between Palakkad and Mallapuram districts. They mostly inhabit a national park named Silent Valley which covers both districts.
Several news reports mentioned that the elephant was ‘fed the firecracker-laden fruit at Mallapuram’.
The reporter who broke the story even mentioned that she had got the district wrong and it was rectified.
Yet, while people pondered over the cruelty meted out to a majestic beast, you felt it was best to dissect the demography of Mallapuram. Suddenly, an issue of animal abuse became a case of prejudice against Muslims. Sadly, who cares about facts when the narrative is pre-set? Who cares about the feelings of millions of Indians who were deeply distressed and outraged at the brutal killing of a harmless pregnant animal?
In your hurry to defend the yet-to-be-identified culprits, you first tried to create confusion by bringing in the Tablighi Jamaat angle, claiming that some people were trying to ‘communalise the issue like they communalised the coronavirus pandemic by blaming Tabilighi Jamaat’.
This was followed by the favourite liberal bugbear where you went on to claim that current regime was treating Muslims the way Jews were treated by Hitler. While it’s common to see social media users make the bizarre Nazi comparison, one certainly doesn’t expect it from a man as learned as yourself.
What exactly were you thinking, Mr. Katju? Do you even realise what kind of an impact this continuous false equivalence has on the ethos of our cultural identity? Will we use a poor elephant’s death to claim something about the current dispensation without proof?
Sadly, your entire article didn’t have an iota of sympathy for the elephant or the fact that those who carried out this heinous should be caught and duly punished, irrespective of their religion or caste. One would’ve expected that someone who was a judge in the Supreme Court of India would want a criminal case to reach its logical conclusion.
Neither did your piece have a single word on the Kerala administration, under whose jurisdiction the incident took place and whose state emblem has two elephants.
To conclude, as one of the countless voices that have united to demand justice for 'Vinayaki' the elephant, I reiterate that irrespective of the religion and caste of the now identified accused, Wilson and Abdul Kareem and his son Riyazuddin, the voiceless animal is given justice at the earliest.
We have already lost Vinayaki, let us not lose faith in the system.
And you, Justice Katju, get well soon!
A truly secular Indian
Priti Gandhi is the National in-charge of BJP Mahila Morcha’s social media.
All views expressed in this article are the author's own.