Temple Elephants of Kerala: What is Brewing?

via Panchajanya published on September 24, 2015

Anyone in Kerala will have a story to tell of a cherished memory with an elephant. It is said that a true Malayali can identify elephants just by looking at it. As a person who grew up in Kerala, I can testify how the intelligent, gentle and majestic pachyderm has been an integral part of life in Kerala. That is exactly why the article by Liz Jones in Daily Mail caught my attention. From title to the last paragraph the entire narrative is a highly exaggerated version filled with fantasy, obviously with a sole aim of tarnishing Hindus and temples of Kerala in particular.

Fortunately, a group of noble hearted nationalist Indians exposed the bluff. Prem Panicker of Peepli.org, famous wildlife photographer Kalyan Varma and Researcher Sreedhar wrote open letters rebutting this manufactured piece of atrocious literature. These exposures were not only rebuttals but bought to the forefront a well-planned conspiracy against temples of Kerala, hatched by Church with the help of few ‘animal rights’ terrorists.

Shocked by these exposures I searched in depth about the sudden love of Westerners for Indian pachyderms and chanced upon profoundly shocking information. Numerous pages sprouted in social media depicting Hindus as elephant torturers. Some even took racial tones calling Kerala as a land of animal torture. Usual suspects are Frontline, The Hindu, New York Times etc, which have published articles, depicting ‘gruesome tales’ of ‘abuse and torture’ endured by tuskers from a barbaric pagan population.

Catholic Church funding fraud NGOs to target Temples

A PIL (Public Interest Litigation) was filed by a Bangalore-based Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC) in the Supreme Court to ban the use of elephants in South Indian temples.

An NGO which hasn’t filed returns since 2010 continues to keep alive it’s registration! (FCRA Reg.No: 094421012 – http://fcraonline.nic.in/fc8_statewise.aspx). This organization which has not filed tax details for the past 4 years files a PIL seeking ban on the use of temple elephants.

Now comes the juicy bit!

The foreign money received by WRRC includes funding from CRS, Baltimore to celebrate National events. CRS= Catholic Relief Services. http://www.crs.org/

CRS is the official overseas Relief and Development Agency of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops- effectively, an official arm of the Church.

The same has been exposed by Nikhil Narayanan via Twitter:

UK link

Apparently, WRRC, Crystal Rogers Animal Welfare Trust, UK, and CUPA (Compassion Unlimited Plus Action) released a book “ Gods in Chains” written by Rhea Gosh in 2005.

The same CUPA published research study about temple elephants, conducted by Surendra Varma of Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) in 2009, which was funded by World Society for Protection of Animals, UK.

Incidentally, CUPA and WRRC are run by Suparna Bakshi Ganguly who co-authored the report submitted by Animal Welfare Board of India in late 2014, which is being used by activists who call for a ban of temple elephants. It is at this juncture that a totally biased article in UK media appeared, followed by numerous petitions and social media campaigns by Western activists. This further point towards a well planned conspiracy involving leftist Indians and Hindu hating Westerners.

Targeting Kerala and Guruvayur Temple in particular

Almost at the same time when Suparna Ganguly visited Punnathurkota (elephant sanctuary of Guruvayur Temple) in 2009, a Canadian journalist, Sangita Iyer also visited the place, where after being touched by the “torture suffered by the elephants from barbaric natives”, she decided to make a documentary for Western audience, so that they could help her in saving the animals from ‘Evil Hindus’. Then onwards, she has been crying for elephants and collecting money to make a documentary, which might become a career break for a journalist whose previous fancy, was ‘suffering, battered women of misogynistic Hindus’. Coincidentally, this film is titled ‘Gods in Shackles’.

She describes her film as follows:

“‘Gods in Shackles’ is a feature-length documentary film, an exposé revealing the darker side of the Indian state of Kerala’s glamorous cultural festivals that exploit temple elephants for profit in the name of culture and religion. The film is near completion, and is set to be released during Fall 2015. We call this film ‘Gods in Shackles’ as it features the embodiment(s) of Lord Ganesh?—?a Hindu God with an elephant face?—?that are being tortured in the name of culture and religion.”

In an interview, Sangita Iyer said that she learnt about the “plight” of temple elephants from Mr Varma. In her spree to collect more funds and broaden publicity for the movie, she even asks for boycott of Guruvayur Temple in Kerala.

Suparna Ganguly is the same person who conducted research, financed the publication of literature, organised campaigns against the practice of using elephants in temples, accepted money from church organisation and approached Court for banning Hindu temple practices citing her own set  of arguments, framing them craftily as ‘expert opinions’. How can this not be read as a planned assault on Hindus on behalf of Western Church elements?

The author doesn’t have any opinion that everything is bright and shining with respect to elephants in Kerala. Part of the problem stems from government bodies like Devaswom Board taking over the management of temples and running the same like any other public sector corporation. Elephants are integral ingredients of not only temples, but an emerging part of church and mosque festivities as well.

Wrapping up

The current hue and cry is nothing but targeted campaign against Hindu temples and the
international portrayal of India as a land of animal torturers is
malicious and wholly agenda driven.

The solution to the issue of ‘temple elephant torture’ is NOT a ban on temple elephants; but solid work within the Hindu-fold, persuading temple authorities to usher in reforms and develop the sanctuary as a model of elephant care.

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