The Centre for Eco-Cultural Studies (CES) had invited that internationally known lady, Sangita Iyer, who has produced an award winning documentary “Gods in Shackles” to visit our country with a laudable motive in mind, to create an awareness and to spare a thought, for the elephants particularly those taken in our ‘Peraheras’; (they stand for hours and walk for miles to entertain and please us!); elephants are also being used for heavy work such as log clearing. Do we spare a thought for them and the suffering they are undergoing? Hardly ever. They were born to roam in their habitats not to stand chained for hours, as in India, nor walk for miles (also with legs chained) as in Lanka at our Peraheras. Sangita Iyer made a presentation/delivered a lecture at the National Film Corporation Theatre, woke us up for we have only watched elephants parading but almost never giver thought to how the animal was faring -- she has woken us up.
This epic documentary, God in Shakles, which has won eight internationally recognized awagranrds, is a very emotional story which moves people, it reveals the dark side of the southern Indian State of Kerala’s glamorous cultural festivals, where temple elephants are exploited for profit under the guise of culture and religion. I do hope our TV channels will show our public at least excerpts from the documentary to awaken our people to this cruelty.
Yes, by exposing the abhorrent torture suffered by India’s heritage animal, ‘Gods in Shackles’ offers hope to the thousands of endangered captive and wild, elephants in India and Sri Lanka, through the creation of a heightened awareness is a matter we have hitherto ignored and taken for granted.
To my mind the saddest part of it all is that this cruelty is being practised in India where they worship God Ganesh, who is depicted with an elephant’s head and tens of millions worship God Ganesh. What does this imply? Is it not sad that commercial considerations and money have replaced human Values?
In Lanka too we even had Mahanayakes of two prestigious Buddhist temples taking two baby elephants away from their mothers – we have in recent days heard of other Buddhist monks too, mind you, keeping baby elephants illicitly and not releasing them to the wild where they belong; let us hope that the Department of wildlife would play a bigger role to protect this majesty of beasts, and that they remain in the ‘Wild’ which is where they belong and is their legitimate home.
We who claim that ours is a Buddhist country and claim that we practise Buddhist values MUST set an example to the world in the manner in which we treat wild animals.
I was delighted to learn that we would be doing away with the animal prison at Dehiwela and giving the unfortunate animals locked up there a measure of freedom in a Bio-wild life park soon -- that is indeed to be commended, yes we must start somewhere for our wildlife should be considered a national treasure.
News has just come in that a Sri Lankan jumbo’s life is in danger because it is winter and the jumbo’s health is affected; and also that the authorities are unable to find a person to be the caretaker of the animal; may I suggest that we ask the Pakistan government to send the jumbo back to Lanka and we release him into the wild for that would indeed be a great meritorious act.
If money is demanded to send the pachyderm back, we are most definitely prepared to pay the costs involved to save this animal’s life.
To conclude, a word of grateful thanks to Sangita Iyar for ‘making us aware’ of this issue; she should receive an honour from our Government in recognition of the work she has done over the years to save the lives of elephants.