By Vijay Singh
MUMBAI: Peering into the camera with fierce determination, covered with scars and trying to break her chains, Padma Bhushan award recipient, Olympic medallist and five-time undisputed world boxing champion Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, managed by IOS Sports and Entertainment, is featured in a striking new campaign from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India just in time before Ganesh Chaturthi festival.
The campaign's photo caption reads, "Elephants Belong in the Wild, Not in Chains. Ban Animal Circuses". It was shot by leading photographer Gaurav Sawn, and Kom's hair styling and make-up were done by Rohini Foregard.
"Circuses are cruel places for animals, where they are beaten and tortured. As a mother, I can imagine what animals go through when their children are taken away from them to be forced to perform in circuses. It's sad!" says Mary. "We humans choose to perform, but animals are given no choice," she adds.
Elephants and other animals in circuses are subjected to chronic confinement, physical abuse and psychological torment. Whips and other weapons — including ankuses, which are heavy, sharp steel-tipped rods — are often used to inflict pain on elephants and beat them into submission. Following a nine-month investigation of circuses by a team that included representatives from PETA and its sister organisation Animal Rahat, the Animal Welfare Board of India, a statutory body operating under the ministry of environment and forests, decided to stop the registration of elephants used to perform in circuses. However, this decision has yet to be implemented.
Kom is from Manipur. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Padmashree awards. "Magnificent Mary," as she has been dubbed, was named Sportswoman of the Year in 2010 at the Sahara India Sports Awards and is India's most successful female athlete of all time.