On Tuesday, Deepavali day, Pallavaram police arrested a 20-year-old mahout on charges of forcing a 60-year-old female elephant to collect alms.

The pachyderm was handed over to its owner, who was warned not make her collect alms in public places.

The elephant, Sumithra, also known as Sumi, is owned by Sekar of Tiruchirapalli. He had left her in the care of her mahout Santhanam (25) and his assistant Raja (20). After taking the elephant to temples and other public places in Kancheepuram, the duo arrived with Sumithra in Chennai a few days ago.

 Sumithra was to be stationed at a Murugan temple in Chromepet for the ongoing ‘Skandasashti’ festival. But on Tuesday, Santhanam and Raja took her to the Gangai Amman Temple in Pallavaram.

As is usual, Sumi placed her trunk on the heads of children and adults on an offer of money.  According to the Pallavaram police, a few persons reportedly pulled at Sumi’s tail, hoping to get a piece of hair from it — many people consider it lucky to wear finger rings made of elephant hair.

Sumi reportedly reacted by trumpeting and circling around the spot. A couple of children reportedly fell during the commotion, but were not injured.  

Pallavaram police and personnel from the Tambaram range of the forest department arrived there and the owner Sekar, was summoned to Pallavaram. He was let off with a warning. Sumithra was unhurt.

Santhanam, the mahout, police said, was charged under Section 336 of the Indian Penal Code read with Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and Sections 71 (3) and 7 of the City Police Act.

Sekar was permitted to take Sumi away with him.

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