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Activist attacked for objecting to use of elephant at religious event

Sunish Kanju of PAWS accused the owner and his son of attacking him for objecting to the presence of an elephant at the event; it was the same elephant, Laxmi, which was spotted begging in Dahisar a few days ago

Just a week after a MiD DAY reader spotted and reported an elephant, Laxmi, being made to beg on the crowded streets of Dahisar, despite elephants being banned from the municipal limits of Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai, a similar scene was witnessed in Powai on Monday night where Laxmi was part of a religious event.

Laxmi at the religious event in Powai on Monday night
Laxmi at the religious event in Powai on Monday night

An animal lover spotted Laxmi and immediately informed Plant & Animals Welfare Society (PAWS) office in Bhandup. The person informed that the animal was surrounded by a noisy mob that was bursting firecrackers around her. Soon, PAWS founder president Sunish Subramanian Kanju reached the spot and objected to the use of the elephant for entertainment purposes. Kanju alleged that all those who accompanied Laxmi’s owner attacked him.

On January 7, MiD DAY reported how the elephant was being made to beg in Dahisar
On January 7, MiD DAY reported how the elephant was being made to beg in Dahisar

Kanju said, “As per the information we got from our sources, the elephant belongs to Sabhashankar B Pandey from Dahisar. The animal was being used for an annual religious festival in Powai. The forest department (FD) officials reached the spot after they were informed. While they were recording the statement of the mahout and organiser, Pandey and his son Saresh reached the spot with 10 men and started creating a ruckus.”

Sensing that the situation could turn ugly, Kanju immediately called the police control room. “Realising that my life was in danger, I immediately called the police control room. While I was on my way to police station, Saresh and his men attacked me,” he said. Kanju filed a complaint at the Powai police station under sections 323 and 506 of the IPC.

PAWS members discussed the issue with Deputy Conservator of Forests (Thane) Anwar Ahmed and Divisional Forest Officer (Vigilance) H G Dhumal yesterday and requested them to register an FIR or take stringent action under Wildlife Protection Act against Pandey and send the elephant to a rehabilitation centre.

Officialspeak
The Bombay Territorial Range of Thane Forest Department, under whose jurisdiction the area falls, have taken a note of the issue and are investigating the case. Thane FD Range Forest Officer (RFO) Anil Todarmal said, “We have already registered an offence against the elephant owner under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, for ill-treating the animal. We are preparing a report regarding the same and it will be sent to the higher authorities for further investigation.”

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