A heart-rending video of an Indian elephant being beaten in custody has outraged viewers including several top film stars from the Mumbai film industry.
The video of Sunder, the 13-year-old elephant in custody at a temple in Kolhapur town in western Maharashtra state was filmed by the non-governmental organisation People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and telecast in a report on the NDTV news channel.
The report, quoting PETA officials, alleged that Sunder’s handler would administer him tobacco, deny him food and water and even injured his eye using a sharp metal rod.
Sunder has been in the news for the last one year. In August last, following anger at the treatment meted out to him, international celebrities including the Beatles group member Sir Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson of Baywatch serial fame wrote to the Maharashtra state government to free him from the temple custody, the report said.
The state forest department obliged and ordered that he be sent to an elephant sanctuary in the southern city of Bangalore for rehabilitation.
But the owners did not release him. PETA has moved the Bombay High Court pleading that it pass orders to free him.
In the meantime, a retinue of top actors in the Mumbai film industry including Amitabh Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit have come out campaigning for his release.
In India there are reportedly more than 3,000 captive elephants, most of them in the southern state of Kerala.
Though revered in the Hindu religion, during festival seasons, critics say the elephants are forced to stand motionless for several hours in the tropical heat.
They are typically held immobile by chains that are tied to their feet. And, to top it, they need to tolerate the sound of drums, loud music and cracker bursts that are part of most festivities.
At times the captive elephants in the course of various festivals go berserk. In the last 12 years, at least 212 people have been killed in Kerala by these elephants, many of them handlers, reports quoting the Elephant Lovers Association say.
In the same period, the Kerala-based association is reported to have found at least 1000 elephants dead due to torture.