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HomeNews ReportsStory of Lakshmi, the humble elephant of Manakula Vinayagar Temple in Puducherry: What PETA...

Story of Lakshmi, the humble elephant of Manakula Vinayagar Temple in Puducherry: What PETA alleged, what devotees say

There is a nexus of so-called animal rights groups, missionaries and high-profile individuals in India operating in India that is trying to destroy the very fabric of Hinduism

Someone has rightly said that the best way to kill a tree is by destroying its roots. Sanatan Dharma has a history of more than 5000 years. The organic form of this ancient and beautiful religion is still alive and flourishing because of the traditions that the devotees follow. From Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu to temple elephant Lakshmi, there have been countless attacks against traditions and customs of Hinduism.

The history of attacks against Hindu traditions

The court cases revolving around Jallikattu almost snatched the centuries-old tradition of Bull racing from Tamil Nadu. Similar attacks have been happening against temples in India that have elephants in their premises. PETA, which claims to raise voice for animal rights, has been trying to remove elephants from the temples since the organisation first came to India. In some cases, they succeeded using their strong international connections and ocean of money donated to them by many Indian and International organizations.

The story of temple elephant Lakshmi

This is the story of Lakshmi, the humble elephant of Manakula Vinayagar Temple in Puducherry. Following the orders issued by the Directorate of Forests and Wildlife, she was forcibly shifted to Krishi Vigyan Kendra at Kurumamber. Animal Welfare Board and PETA raised the complaint alleging the deteriorating health condition of Lakshmi to Maneka Gandhi. She further requested Kiran Bedi and Directorate of Forests and Wildlife to remove the elephant from the temple and shift her to a ‘safer’ location.

Complaint raised by Animal Welfare Board of India

The complaint and coverage in MSM put all the blame on temple administration, stating that the temple has repeatedly abused and violated the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Also, there are some rules set by the Government of Tamil Nadu under Tamil Nadu Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, 2011 that every owner of an elephant has to follow. The complaint alleged the temple did not follow that many rules and regulations under the said act in case of Lakshmi that had an adverse effect on her health.

Temple’s side goes unheard

However, when OpIndia reached out to the devotees and activists from the temple side, the case looked a lot different. We approached Mr Subrat Goswami from Gurugram, who is trying to bring Lakshmi back to the temple. He said that temple adopted Lakshmi after she was abandoned by her herd in 1997. She was living in the temple premises ever since. After they received a complaint from the Directorate of Forests and Wildlife to furnish all the details of Lakshmi’s wellbeing, the temple administration provided all documents except the blood test report that was still pending.

Orders issued by Directorate of Forests and Wildlife

The pressure from PETA continued while waiting for the blood reports and the Forest department passed the orders to remove Lakshmi from the temple premises on 4th June 2020. In the orders, the department alleged that temple had not furnished any documents or details about Lakshmi’s health. They also alleged that the temple failed to provide records such as disease and treatment register, movement and work register, and vaccination to the department. When the devotees came to know about the orders, BJP workers and Hindu Munnani activists organized protests at the Vedapureeswarar temple. Forest officials came back empty-handed that day, but they executed the orders on 8th June with the police’s help.

A similar case of Kanchi temple elephants

This is not the first time PETA and anti-Hindu forces have tried to remove elephants from temples in India. A similar case took place in 2016 when forest officials removed three elephants from Kanchi Mutt. The administration decided to use deadly force against the innocent animals when they refused to go with the forest officials without a fight, resulting in severe injuries. As per the reports, Sandhya, one of the elephants, was profusely bleeding, and there were deep injuries on all three elephants after being loaded in the trucks. After a lengthy legal battle, the mutt got the elephants back, but the whole fiasco left a scar on the temple administration as animal rights activists hounded them for years.

The nexus against Hinduism

During the conversation with Satya, from Indu Makkal Katchi and Murlidharan S, freelance animal rights activists, some unsettling details came to light. They alleged that there is a nexus of so-called animal rights groups, missionaries and high-profile individuals operating in India that is trying to destroy the very fabric of Hinduism. They not only file false claims against Hindu temple administrations that keep animals but also take them away using several loopholes in the legal system. They then allegedly starve these “rescued” elephants and use their photos and videos to misguide people from around the world about Indian temples. These organizations receive millions of dollars in donations to “save the elephants” from “cruel Hindu temples.”

The devotees and Hindu animal rights activists have come forward to help the temples in maintaining the good health of the animals. The bond between the devotees and elephants like Lakshmi is unbreakable and it is visible on social media via posts on the hashtag #GiveOurLakshmiBack.

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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