A heartbreaking photo of two elephants – mother and its baby – fleeing a mob of local villagers who set them on fire in India has gone viral. The photo, taken by Biplab Hazra, has won the Sanctuary Wildlife Photography Awards 2017.
The photo, titled "Hell is Here," highlights the conflict between locals of West Bengal's Bankura district and elephants. In the image, a calf on fire is seen running behind the mother elephant.
Hazra said that the calf screamed in "confusion and fear as the fire licks her feet," while the mob throwing tar balls and crackers at them. He also said that "this sort of humiliation of pachyderms is routine" in Bankura district.
"The ignorance and bloodlust of mobs that attack herds for fun, is compounded by the plight of those that actually suffer damage to land, life and property by wandering elephants and the utter indifference of the central and state government to recognize the crisis that is at hand," the magazine said in a note accompanying the award-winning photograph.
"For these smart, gentle, social animals who have roamed the sub-continent for centuries, hell is now and here," Hazra said.
[WARNING: Some may find the photo distressing]
The photograph has garnered huge attention and several people slammed the villagers for their brutal act.
"These people can't have souls!! The poor elephants! God have mercy on the animals! Is there not an organization that will step in and do something about this?" a Facebook user said.
"I hope those who did this to these poor elephants burn in the hell reserved for animal abusers. God help us all.." another said.
"Please send this photo around the world so people will know the face of evil."
Meanwhile, the deaths caused by elephant attacks in Bankura-West Midnapore belt has been an unresolved issue in West Bengal. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had even pulled up the forest officials for the deaths. In 2016, around 29 people were killed due to elephant attacks and this year, at least five people have lost their lives.
To prevent the conflicts between animals and villagers, forest officials have started sending SMS alerts about the elephant movements in the region.