The People for the Ethical Treatment to Animals (PETA) India on Tuesday slammed the Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (TN HR&CE) Department for its "public relations stunt" to show that Joymala, the much-abused female elephant from Assam, was being pampered in a temple.
Joymala, renamed Jayamalyatha in the southern State, should have been seized by the Tamil Nadu government after the first case of her torture by the temple elephants had surfaced through a video, the animal rights group said.
PETA India said the TN HR&CE Department focussed on "misleading the public" instead of ensuring suitable action on repeated crimes against the elephant. The department released a 30-second video on Monday showing Jeyamalyatha unchained with unarmed mahouts in a pool, besides claiming that the videos on the elephant being tortured were fake. "This is despite the same agency having suspended the mahout involved in beating Jeyamalyatha at a rejuvenation camp, and the mahout and kavadi being booked for the crime which went viral in February 2021," PETA India said.
This crime was also extensively documented by the TN HR&CE Department in a disciplinary action report and a first information report having been filed against the abusers under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Evidence showed the elephant was tortured in the sanctum sanctorum of the Krishnan Kovil temple at Srivilliputhur. The forest range had registered offences under the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WPA), 1972, along with the Tamil Nadu Captive Elephant (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2011, PETA India said.
“Rather than denying established facts, Jeyamalyatha should have been seized by the Tamil Nadu Forest authorities immediately after the first beating video surfaced and certainly after the second video. We request the authorities to have a heart, and to give the lonely and bullied Jeyamalyatha the care she needs at a true rescue centre, where she can live unchained, and be in the company of her own kind,” PETA India director of advocacy projects Khushboo Gupta said. Jeyamalyatha was leased out by Assam in 2008 reportedly for six months but never returned.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma sent a four-member team to Chennai for inspecting the elephant's condition, and to try and bring her back. However, Tamil Nadu Forest officials have reportedly prevented the team from visiting the elephant.
HR&CE Minister P.K. Sekarbabu said the elephant was being well taken care of, like other animals in temples. “The Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has directed us to ensure their health and well-being. We have created a dedicated space for her to bathe and walk. Specific mud pathways have been created in groves. We have around 30 elephants attached to temples and 29 of them have such dedicated facilities. The last one is in the making now. We have veterinarians attending to the animals every fortnight and the prescribed diet is only followed. Devotees are allowed to feed only vegetables or fruits to the elephants,” he said.
HR&CE Additional Commissioner R. Kannan, who recently visited the elephant, said she was fine and enjoyed bathing in the pool. “I was the Virudhunagar district collector during the previous incident that happened at the camp and the elephant had been in heat (masth). I received her on her return and she stood by me calmly, contently eating what I offered. This time too, I had the same feeling,” he said. The animal had been gifted to the temple and the department was in possession of the gift certificate, he added.
State Chief Wildlife Warden Srinivas Reddy said the Forest Department would send PETA a rejoinder asking them to withdraw the videos being circulated on social media. This is not a new incident, it happened a year and a half ago. The person in the video has left the job. The animals are healthy and are being monitored on a regular basis. “The video is being maliciously posted again and again,” he said.