It's official now: Kerala isn't expecting a big baby. The owner's pride, Sethulakshmi, is now reduced to an ordinary elephant and the man behind the "jumbo lie," Prasanth, is cooling his heels in a prison.
Sethulakshmi, a 32-year-old cow elephant, became a celebrity with its proud owner's claim that his elephant was pregnant. A rarity, as very few elephants get conceived in captivity. News spread like wildfire attracting quick name and fame to Sethulakshmi. National channels vied to have a glimpse of the animal and local papers spent reams depicting her every moment.
In a hurriedly convened press conference last month, Prasanth alias Guruji, a resident of Thiruvananthapuram claimed that Discovery Channel had approached him with a fat purse to film the delivery of his elephant. And an Ayurveda firm had offered Rs three lakh for the calf's first dung.
According to Prasanth, though Sethulakshmi was in the company of four other domesticated tuskers, it took a wild tusker to woo and impregnate her. Basking in the glory of his elephant, Prasanth's fortune was short-lived.
The overzealous cops busted Sethulakshmi pregnancy. It all began with the rescue of two mahouts from the custody of the owner. The first mahout of Sethulakshmi, Viswanathan Nair, told the police that they were beaten up badly, tonsured their heads and forced to sign blank papers by Prasanth to prevent them from going public about the true condition of the elephant.
"Prasanth and three of his assistants were arrested on charges of torturing mahouts and their illegal confinement. It seems he enacted the entire drama to earn some quick money," Inspector General of Police (southern range) Arun Kumar Sinha told the Hindustan Times.
Prasanth later sold the elephant for Rs eleven lakhs. "Mahouts told us that they were forced to feed and drink the elephant frequently to make its belly bulging. Fed up, the mahouts fled to Thrissur," V Suresh Kumar, the police inspector who probed the case, explained.
Scared they would spill the beans, Prasanth and his assistants abducted the mahouts and brought to Thiruvananthapuram. "Like his elephant he chained the mahouts to a pole. After two days of captivity one of them escaped to tell the story," said Suresh Kumar.
Prasanth has been remanded to judicial custody for 14 days.