“Look at the crime rate in Malappuram. Communal conflicts are highest there. Malappuram is perhaps the most disturbed district in the country. Every day there is some incident or the other there. They have killed so many women. They create Hindu-Muslim tensions, chop off people’s arms. The situation in Malappuram is very scary. It seems as if the Kerala government is scared of Malappuram because it does not take any action. The weakest people in the administration are sent to Malappuram." These are words from BJP MP and former central minister Maneka Gandhi to news agency ANI during an interview.
Elaborating on the statement she told this much too to India Today in an interview: "After all, if they (culprits) could plant a bomb in the pineapple, it means it was a professional bomb. You and I can't make that professional bomb sitting in our homes...we ourselves will die. This means that somewhere in Malappuram there are two-three places where some people are making bombs sitting in their rooms. Today they have used it against an elephant, tomorrow they will use these bombs against humans". These statements which can easily be called baseless, pure lies and hatred of the other, were not published through any fake social media account, but came from a national leader and former minister before the camera repeatedly. Following Maneka Gandhi's statement, central minister Prakash Javadekar also entered the scene with an assertion that no one behind the murder of the elephant would be spared.
The most curious part of the statement is the provocation in depicting Malappuram in the meanest of terms. A pregnant elephant had died on 27 May following the damage suffered by fire cracker-stuffed food, originally believed to be pineapple. That innocent creature lost her life after suffering enough of pain and starvation. It is a natural response why Malappuram should be abused for an elephant being killed. In India, wherever there are elephants, there are attacks on them as well. If such a thing happened at all in Malappuram, what is the aim of deriding the entire population of a district and carrying out vitriolic propaganda against them? The most intriguing part in it all is that the incident did not take place in Malappuram district but in Thiruvazhamkunnu in Palakkad district Thus, it boils down to this most deplorable act: first put the blame of an incident in Palakkad on the people of Malappuram and then conduct a campaign that demonises the land and its people; and then a former central minister and a current minister lead them all.
Maneka Gandhi is one known to be an animal lover, and to declare that to the world, she has an organisation too. We do not know whether she is in fact a lover of animals, but there is no doubt that she is clearly anti-human. The social media of sangh parivar was swiftly in the picture to turn the Malappuram-bashing launched by her and Javadekar, into an anti-Muslim drive. That hate campaign was promptly picked up by a large section of north Indian media. What followed then was an act by the pack similar to creating anti-Muslim feelings by linking the Covid pandemic to Tablighi Jamaat; this time it was by unleashing lies of elephantine proportions and thus creating a flood of anti-Muslim venom.
The hate campaigns against Malappuram is not that new. The narrative about it once was as a land of a people without education and culture. When the students of that district got more studious making progress, the portrayal was tweaked a bit – the better exam results were a result of cheating, a description led by veteran Communist leader VS Achuthanandan. The current convenor of Kerala's ruling LDF, himself hailing from Malappuram district, is particularly adept at this anti-Malappuram propaganda. Thus Malappuram is a name heard invariably with an aversion by narrow-minded quarters on the left and right of the political divide.
The only problem with Malappuram is that it happens to have a majority Muslim population. In other words, the truth is that if one of the 14 districts of the state has Muslims in a marginally higher number, our mainstream is unwilling to accept and live with it. Therefore, what has to happen fundamentally is to shake off this mind-set. But that is easier said than done, for so deep is that consciousness among such people. The new hullabaloo is not at all about care for animals or love of environment. It is but a deep-rooted and ill-concealed anti-Muslim sentiment.