TN to send back temple elephant, but questions remain

“To a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the District Forest Office in Madurai has said Deivanai of Sri Subramaniya Swamy Temple, Thiruparankundram will be sent back to Assam,” activist Antony Clement Rubin told IANS.

Chennai: In what could the first action of its kind, Tamil Nadu will be sending back a captive elephant long kept at a temple back to its home state Assam soon, said an animal rights activist.

“To a query under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the District Forest Office in Madurai has said Deivanai of Sri Subramaniya Swamy Temple, Thiruparankundram will be sent back to Assam,” activist Antony Clement Rubin told IANS.

Rubin said Deivanai was first at the temple for years and was later shifted to the Elephant Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Tiruchirappalli last month.

Citing the reply to his RTI query, Rubin said Deivanai was shifted to the rehabilitation centre on June 1, due to its bad temper which had resulted in the death of its cavady (mahout’s assistant) S. Kalidasan in May.

At the centre, Deivanai injured seriously another cavady Charan and he is in a hospital.

Another animal rights activist, Deepak Nambiar of Elephas Maximus Indicus Trust (EMIT) told IANS that there are several unanswered questions in the whole issue.

“The dead Kalidasan’s family is yet to get any compensation from the government. He is survived by his wife and a four-year-old child,” Nambiar told IANS.

Nambiar also asked which arm of the Tamil Nadu government will pay the compensation to Kalidas’ family and also to the seriously injured Charan and how did the state Forest Department miss out on tracking the permission letter and letting Deivanai continue staying at the temple for over three years.

Rubin said the temple had taken the elephant on lease from its owner in Assam.

According to the District Forest Office, Madurai, the ownership certificate was issued by the Assam government and the Tamil Nadu government has issued a certificate of permission to possess the elephant.

However, the certificate of possession had expired on April 29, 2017 and was not renewed.

Nambiar said Deivanai was originally named Prerona and owned by Lila Bora of Assam.

He also demanded that the M.R. Palayam Elephant Rescue Centre should release the CCTV footage of what happened on the evening when Charan was attacked by Deivanai.

Nambiar also wondered about the silence of the Project Elephant that is responsible for all captive elephants on the certificate or ownership details of the animal.

According to him, the dereliction of duties by the officials concerned has resulted in illegal elephants retained by religious institutions and death of human beings.

He alleged that the members of Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants Committee had visited the captive elephants only twice between 2016 and December 2019.

Nambiar also asked why the elephant was still at the temple when the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), Chennai in 2014 had written to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department saying that his Assam counterpart has given permission to sendPrerona/Deivanai to Sri Subramaniya Swamy Temple for a period of three years.

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