"Bend your head, show them respect," Bhageera orders Mowgli when a herd of elephants walk make their way through the jungle in Disney's live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book. Although a magnificent scene in the movie, the revere is limited to the big screen as more and more cases of elephant abuse make their way to social media platforms.
The most violent videos feature the elephants and it is unfortunately from the state of Kerala. A recent video catching online users' attention comes Makara-Thiruvathira festival of Pezhumthuruthu Bhadradevi Temple, near Kollam.
In the video, a herd of elephants are seen paraded through a rocky surface and led into a stream of water with locals seated on them. Chained, the elephants are decorated in the name of religion and tradition.
This video, shared on Facebook, has got online users furious. "Absolutely disgusting. So wrong and evil," read a comment on the video, "The so-called most literate state with hardly any sense. They don't have any compassion towards their fellow beings, how can we expect towards animals," says another furious user.
"What tradition and ritual is this? Which deity demands this? This barbaric nonsense is nothing but a show to satisfy the gigantic egos of the pea-brained species that run these festivals. And they call themselves elephant lovers!" states Rajeev N Kurup, honorary animal weld officer, Kerala (AWBI) and an animal activist, while talking about the abuse against elephants to International Business Times India.
"With about 25,000 small and big temples in Kerala, over 75 percent of them use elephants for festivals. Now, a new trend has started wherein even churches and mosques are using elephants for numerous ceremonies," he told IBTimes India.
"In Kerala, the elephant count is below 425. Most of them are owned by a private proprietor, a few are owned by Devaswom boards and some come under the Forest Department. During the festival season, these animals do not receive sufficient rest nor are treated well. This leads to the animal becoming restless during the festivities and the sunlight, huge crowd and fireworks just worsen the situation," he explained.
So, what can be done to combat it?
The animal activist pointed out that several NGOs and activists are working relentlessly towards bringing about a change. "Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC), a Bangalore-based NGO, has already filed a case against using elephants during festivals in the Supreme Court. I have contributed about 750 clippings for that case," Ranjeev said.
"Many petitions and complaints have been taken. But why hasn't the forest department taken any action while it was on? It's all hand in glove!" he added.