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19 Nov 2017, 08:36 HRS IST
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  • PTI
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  • Elephants captivated for commerce, not culture: Docu dir
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  • Trisha Mukherjee New Delhi, Jul 17 (PTI)
  • I

    n November 2014, when Toronto based biologist, Sangita Iyer visited her "soul-animal" Lakshmi, in her hometown in Kerala, she was devastated to see the elephant reeling under pain having been blinded by her mahout.

    Lakshmi, is among the many elephants who are held captive by religious authorities in Kerala to be used in the state's
    globally popular temple festivals.

    "It was devastating to witness how they treated my soul animal Lakshmi. She was tortured to blindness. I still remember when I first met her, she had gorgeous honey brown eyes. She is one of the few female elephants in Kerala and I bonded with her on a much deeper level.

    "But, when I saw her in 2014, my jaw dropped because her left eye was swollen shut and tears were constantly streaming
    out. When she openend her eye, I saw a white scar in her eye. When I asked around, I learnt that her mahout beat her mercilessly because she ate his food that was left unattended.

    One of his blows struck her in the eye and she became blind," Iyer says.

    n the absence of a veterinarian who was supposed to treat Lakshmi's eye, the local people nailed the ailing elephant to make her lie down and forced open her eye with their "filthy hands" to pour in the eye drops, she narrates.

    To bring the plight of captive elephants like Lakshmi to the attention of the concerned authorities and create an awakening within the larger public, in 2015 she came out with a documentary titled, "Gods in Shackles," which was screened here recently.

    "I saw that they were shackled so tightly, they had massive tumors on their hips and raw bleeding wounds on their ankles. Many blind elephants were being paraded in the sun as tears streamed down their eyes. It was heartbreaking and I knew that I had to do something about it. That's how I decided to make this film," she says.

    The 92-minute documentary follows the lives of four "celebrity" elephants for a year, including Lakshmi. A fifth male elephant named Sundar who made international headlines for having been able to break the shackles of captivity has also been featured. 

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