Research scholars allege apathy by Sacon administration in student’s death
in elephant attack, stage silent protest
Wilson Thomas, The Hindu
May 18, 2023
A day after a postgraduate student was trampled to death by a wild elephant
on the campus of the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History
(Sacon) near Coimbatore, research scholars of the institute staged a silent
protest on Thursday, alleging that official apathy had led to the death of
the aspiring biologist.
Wearing black badges, a section of the research scholars squatted in front
of the bust of Salim Ali on the campus, demanding justice for the deceased,
Vishal Shrimal, 23, of Rajasthan. One of the placards placed before the
bust read, “It’s not elephant, It’s mismanagement”. “...Due to
mismanagement by the administration, there have been issues that threaten
the life and security of the researchers in Sacon. Moreover, because of the
injustice done to Vishal Shrimal, before and after his death, a group of
researchers in Sacon has decided to go on a strike to demand justice for
Vishal and for the safety of all fellow researchers on the Sacon campus,”
said a notice, which was signed by nine students.
The scholars told The Hindu that Shrimal was attacked by a wild elephant on
the campus, located inside a reserve forest off the Coimbatore-Mannarkad
Road, when he stepped out of the hostel/guesthouse on Tuesday night to get
drinking water from the canteen. “He had to go to the canteen at night
since there is no drinking water at the hostel. He took two cans to carry
the water and used his mobile phone’s torch for light. In fact, he had
requested the administration to provide a torch a few days ago,” they said.
According to the students who protested, Vishal, who had been pursuing an
M.Sc. in Wildlife Science at the University of Kota in Rajasthan, came to
the Sacon campus a week ago for dissertation work and was unfamiliar with
the terrain. “Since the campus is situated in a forest and on an elephant
transit path, the administration should have ensured that drinking water
was available at the hostel. Also, most of the pathway lamps on the campus
are defunct,” they added.
They further said the administration had forced other students to sign a
document stating that the death occurred when Vishal was returning from the
canteen after dinner. According to the Forest Department, a lone elephant
attacked Vishal around 8.30 p.m. on Tuesday. He suffered injuries in the
chest and the right leg and died without responding to treatment at a
private hospital in Coimbatore around 4.30 a.m. Wednesday.
When contacted, an official from the Sacon administration said the
institute does not have a director at present. “A discussion was held with
the protesting scholars in the evening. The director of the Wildlife
Institute of India is scheduled to visit the campus next week. The scholars
wanted to have a meeting with the director, which will be arranged. They
withdrew the protest,” said the official.
A source said the post of director remained vacant as the institute was at
a transition stage after its recent merger with the Wildlife Institute of