Joymala, an elephant from Assam, who was allegedly mistreated at a temple in Tamil Nadu, is in the news again with an animal rights activist group claiming on Tuesday that the jumbo was back in chains in the coastal state.
The charge was, however, denied by a senior official of the Tamil Nadu government.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India claimed that a video of Joymala released by the Tamil Nadu government in September showing the female elephant enjoying outdoor access and walking unchained was “not true”.
Addressing a press conference in Guwahati, PETA India’s campaigns manager Radhika Suryavanshi said, “We had been periodically monitoring Joymala’s daily routine between October 20 to November 13 and have found that she is back in chains on a concrete floor inside a shed. The pool where she was shown to be enjoying has no water now and she is still in solitary confinement.”
PETA India backed the claim with a video purportedly showing wounds on Joymala’s legs and visuals of an empty pool near her shed.
However, J Kumaragurubaran, Commissioner, Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments department, Tamil Nadu, said the elephant is absolutely fine.
“She is bathing and has been given a good ‘mahout’. We have already put out photos and videos of the elephant recently on our Twitter site. The Government of India had acknowledged it,” he said.
Claiming that it is an old video that is resurfacing, Kumaragurubaran said they did not want to comment on PETA’s intention which “appears to be malicious”.
“The same video is resurfacing again and again targeting the elephants and temples in Tamil Nadu. If they continue to defame, we will handle them legally,” he said.
A senior forest department official in Assam said the state government is pursuing all measures to ensure the safety and return of Joymala.
He, however, refused to comment as the matter is sub-judice.
Joymala, known as Jeymalyatha in the southern state, was taken from Assam to Tamil Nadu in 2008 for engagement in religious processions and ceremonies for five years, though she is yet to be returned to her home state.
“She is controlled by the threat of weapons such as ‘ankush’ (a wooden stick with a hook) while being held at the Krishnan Kovil temple,” the PETA functionary added.
The first video of the beating of the chained pachyderm in an elephant rejuvenation camp had emerged in February 2021, and a ‘mahout’ and ‘kavadi’ were arrested by the Tamil Nadu government, the PETA functionary said.
The second video of a similar assault by another ‘mahout’ in the temple surfaced in June this year, which led to public outrage.
The Assam government had sent a team of four members, comprising elephant experts and forest and police officials, to inspect the condition of the elephant and pave the way for her return to the state, but the Tamil Nadu government refused permission for the delegation to meet the elephant.
The Assam government had got an interim order from the Gauhati High Court for an inspection of the elephants taken from the northeastern state to Tamil Nadu.
Suryavanshi maintained that no visitors are allowed to enter the area where Joymala is now kept, ‘seemingly to keep her in loneliness and keep her abuse hidden’.
She urged the Assam government to pressurise the southern state to release the jumbo and ensure that Joymala is sent to a specialised rehabilitation centre as it requires skills to handle abused elephants.
As per official records, there are nine elephants from Assam in different temples of Tamil Nadu.