Tamil Nadu

HC questions need for keeping elephants in captivity in temples

Elephants lined up to celebrate Pongal at the rejuvenation camp at Thekkampatti in Coimbatore district. File photo.  

The Madras High Court on Wednesday questioned the necessity for keeping elephants in captivity in temples. It wondered which Agama Sastra (religious manual) insists on taming pachyderms and forcing them to live in limited space inside places of worship though the wild animals should ideally be allowed to move around freely in forests.

A Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and P. Rajamanickam raised the question during the course of hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by T. Pandurangan, a resident of Tekkampatti village in Mettupalayam Taluk of Coimbatore district against conduct of elephant rejuvenation camps in his village.

In his affidavit, the petitioner had stated that the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department had been conducting rejuvenation camps for temple elephants across the State for the last few years. Initially, these camps were held in Teppakadu in Mudumalai forest area and the venue was shifted to Tekkampatti only in 2012.

“Initially, we did not know the repercussions of the said camp in Tekkampatti,” the petitioner said and went on to claim that the severity of the camp was realised only after 16 lives were lost due to elephant attack during the last six year. He claimed that the residents of 23 villages around the camp were living in fear of death all the time.

Claiming that most of the temple elephants, brought to the camp from various districts, were female, the petitioner said, their scent attracts male elephants from the nearby forest areas. However, on being prevented from entering the camp, the wild pachyderms go on a rampage damaging crops and killing people, he claimed.

It was also alleged that drinking water schemes implemented through Bhavani river for the benefit of residents of Tekkampatti, Karamadai, Goundampalayam, Nellithurai, Mettupalayam and Thondamuthur had become highly polluted due to the water being used for bathing of elephants in Tekkampatti camp.

However, suspecting that it was the people who had intruded into elephant corridors, the judges directed Additional Government Pleader E. Manohar to submit by January 7 details regarding the period when the 23 villages in question came into existence in Mettupalayam. They also refused to pass any interim order in favour of the PIL petitioner.

Taking a dig at the HR &CE department too for permitting the temples to keep elephants in captivity and then taking them to rejuvenation camps once in a while, the judges said: “Some day, this court is going to ban the practice of keeping elephants in temples.”

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 8:31:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/hc-questions-need-for-keeping-elephants-in-captivity-in-temples/article25617671.ece

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