By Karishma Goenka
An animal rights activist was threatened and assaulted on Monday night after he enquired about the presence of an elephant at a temple function in Powai.
Sunish Subramanium Kunju, member of Plants and Animals Welfare Society, who had gone to Ayyapa Vishnu Temple on being told of the animal being used at a function, was abused by the owner and assaulted by his son and their associates.
Officials of Powai police station have detained the offenders on a complaint by Kunju and let them go after making them pay a fine. They gave the name of the owner of the elephant as Sabhashankar Pandey and the son as Saresh.
“After we were told by an animal lover about the elephant at about 8pm, we informed forest officials, who accompanied us to the place,” said Kunju. “We waited for the function to get over and then began our enquiries.”
The function where the elephant had been brought along was being held to mark Pongal, the harvest festival. Traditionally, celebrations begin with a procession of caprisoned elephants. So, the elephant was brought in for the celebrations on Monday.
Kunju said that while the forest officials were recording the mahout’s statement, the elephant owner and his son threatened him. So, the activist complained to the police who were also there.
Subsequently, the son assaulted him.
The forest officials have said that the elephant cannot be allowed to remain in the city and they will take action against the owner under the Wildlife Protection Act.
Elephants are banned from city limits in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai under the Wildlife Protection Act. The additional chief conservator of forests has stated in a recent circular, “Elephants are brought in to give joyrides, beg, entertain guests at functions at temples and political rallies. All the activities carried out by the elephants are in contravention of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.”
Forest officials said they found that the ownership licence for the elephant was registered in Bihar.
“We will apply for cancellation of this licence and send the elephant to a rehabilitation centre,” said Anwar Ahmed, deputy chief conservator of forests (west).