The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) has written to the minister of forests, Tamil Nadu, requesting that temple Masini, of the Mariamman temple in Trichy, be rehabilitated.
activists said the jumbo, which had trampled its mahout to death in May, highlighted the abuse she had endured over the years. Masini is generally very peaceful and calm. But it is evident that captive conditions made her emotionally disturbed,” said Varda Mehrotra, executive director, FIAPO, adding that there was a threat to her caretakers at the temple as well as that of visitors. Masini was found when she was just three months old by the forest department in the forests of Kargudi near Mudumalai. She was brought to the forest camp in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. She was donated to the temple in 2016 by then chief minister Jayalalithaa. According to activists, the elephant was taken to the temple every morning and evening to ‘bless’ devotees and housed in a small shed nearby.
In May, Masini trampled her mahout to death on the temple premises. In July, she was shifted to the Veterinary College and Research Institute in Orathanadu in Thanjavur after she developed swelling in her right leg and is said to be recuperating. Elephants are intelligent beings with high cognitive, emotional and social skills. Various studies have shown that temple elephants suffer from sore feet as they stand for hours on concrete floors. “Keeping elephants in captivity like that is in violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act. Even if there is no explicit cruelty happening to Masini, there is still a violation of the animal’s basic rights, which have been recognised in various court judgments,” said Mehrotra. In the landmark judgment of Animal Welfare Board of India v A Nagaraja (2014), the Supreme Court recognised the inherent value of all animals by declaring that animals have an inherent right to live and a right to a dignified life. The Uttarakhand High Court in Narayan Dutt Bhatt v Union of India (2018) declared the entire animal kingdom including avian and aquatic as legal entities having a distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person.
“Our submission based on all this is of the need to recognise Masini as a non-human person who has right to liberty, and a dignified life and that she should be rehabilitated because we cannot keep her in the present conditions without violating these rights,” said Mehrotra, adding that the elephant should be sent back to the forest camp. “We are running on digital media and are also getting a petition signed to get justice for Masini,” she added.
While officials of the forest department could not be reached for a response, Kumaradurai, joint commissioner (Samayapuram), Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments, said a decision would be arrived at after the animal recuperated. “Masini is undergoing treatment at Veterinary College and Research Institute in Orathanadu as she had swelling on her leg as well as stomach. Once she recovers fully, we will take it up with the government and come to a decision.”