The hordes and the herd

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_P4_ELEPHANTBangalore, June 25;It was mass frenzy: quite unhelpful to the elephantine operation at hand, and at times distinctly endangering people’s safety.

Even as the Forest Department officials burst crackers and fired shots in the air to scare the 13-strong wild herd that strayed from a forest patch in Anekal on Monday, the crowds that gathered around the railway tracks near Huskur whistled and clapped every time the animals emerged from the shrubbery.

At least 200 police personnel — from Anekal, Hosur, Nelamangala and even Doddaballapur among other areas — and about 60 Forest Department officials battled the crowds that went out of control every time they spotted an elephant. The hordes paid no heed to police warnings to steer clear of the area.

In a desperate attempt to control the public, the police even made announcements in autorickshaws warning the crowd to keep off.

Something had to happen and it did. Thirty-something Muniraju had a close shave when an irritated elephant lifted him by its trunk and flung him to the ground. He was lucky to have sustained only minor fractures in his limbs. He was treated at a nearby hospital before taken home.

Nagappa, one of the residents, said: “He went along with a group in to the area to take a video when he was thrashed by the elephant. Everyone else scrambled to get out of the way: he was drunk and could not run so fast.”

Later, again, when one of the domesticated elephants from Bannerghatta was brought in to help, the crowds went over the top yet again. A train that passed by only made the situation worse as the people sitting on the tracks scattered in panic.

It was a tough battle for the authorities on both fronts. The situation was made worse by children joining the party after school, joining their parents who had come streaming from the neighbouring villages of Avalahalli, Harohalli, Chokkasandra, Dommasandra.

As the elephants were finally directed away from Huskur and via Chintamadiwala to head toward the National Highway 7, every human present seemed to follow the police vans in what appeared to be a motorcycle rally. Many of them continued to trace the route alongside the forest officials, directing the herd, even till late evening.

Meanwhile, a forest official said that five domesticated elephants were helping to direct the herd toward the woods. Two elephants from Bannerghatta and more from Mysore, Srirangapatna and Mandya were being brought to help in the operation.

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