An elephant, Joymala, is at the centre of a row in Tamil Nadu, where the state government is fighting the claims of animal rights organization PETA that the animal is being subjected to cruelty.
The elephant Joymala is "absolutely doing good", the Tamil Nadu government said, tweeting a 31-second video that it claims was taken on Monday. The video is meant to counter PETA's video apparently showing the animal in distress.
"Elephant Joymala in Srivilliputhur Andal Temple. Absolutely doing good. Taken good care by the present team. Bathing facility has also been created. Some fake videos are circulating in social media. This video is taken today (5.9.22)," the tweet said, tagging PETA India.
Elephant Joymala in Srivilliputhur Andal Temple. Absolutely doing good. Taken good care by the present team. Bathing facility has also been created. Some fake videos are circulating in social media. This video is taken today. 5.9.22. @PetaIndia pic.twitter.com/gK6la8WOXM— TN HRCE (@tnhrcedept) September 5, 2022
The elephant is seen frolicking and being bathed in a pool in the video put up by the Tamil Nadu government's Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, which oversees temples. It is not clear when the pool was constructed.
Joymala was brought from Assam and has since been at the Srivilliputhur Andal temple.
The state government's video was tweeted a day after PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) posted a video that it claimed had been taken during a veterinary inspection of the elephant.
Tamil Nadu has called the PETA video fake. NDTV cannot independently verify the video.
The video begins with visuals of Joymala with her caretaker. Captions say the elephant is being kept illegally at the temple. "Here, she is being beaten in the sacred sanctum sanctorum of Krishnan Kovil...In 2021, she was tied to a tree and beaten ruthlessly," it said, with visuals of an elephant being beaten.
PETA claims the first video showing the elephant being beaten emerged from a rejuvenation camp; though the mahout was suspended, the abuse continued under the new mahout, he claimed. Its latest video shows a man hitting the elephant with a stick even as she screams in pain.
PETA alleged that Joymala's new mahout uses pliers and ankuses to force her to obey and that she is kept chained for upto 16 hours a day, alone in a shed.
"On 27 July, PETA India's veterinary inspection of elephant Joymala (Jeymalyatha) revealed the mahout used pliers to painfully twist her skin for control even in front of inspectors," PETA said.
Cases have been filed against the mahout, but PETA urged authorities to send her to a sanctuary "so that she can receive care and live free from pain".
Responding to Tamil Nadu government's video, PETA said, "The pool seen in the news appears to have been created recently purely for public relations and was neither completed nor used during inspection even though she has been with the temple since 2008."
The Assam government recently initiated steps to take Joymala back. Several celebrities also took up the cause.
Dear Sirs, @himantabiswa, @mkstalin , @cmpatowary, @Ramachandranmla, please send elephant Jeymalyatha alias Joymala to a rescue centre where she can receive specialised care, live free & be in the company of her fellow beings. She needs help to recover from her trauma. Grateful🙏 https://t.co/vwC3RaarcT— Madhuri Dixit Nene (@MadhuriDixit) September 4, 2022
Actor Madhuri Dixit called for Joymala to be sent to a rescue centre in her tweet tagging Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin.
The Tamil Nadu Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department, which oversees temple elephants, has shared videos of more elephants.