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Movie Screening, – Exposé on abuse of temple elephants, ‘Gods in Shackles’

‘God in Shackles’, a critically acclaimed documentary exposing the abuse of Kerala’s captive elephants was screened for public at PVR Rivoli in New Delhi on Saturday. Smt. Maneka Gandhi, Union Cabinet Minister for Women & Child Development and an animal welfare activist who attended the screening was moved by the appalling evidences of elephant torture and trauma brought out by the documentary. She said, “Over 800 elephants have died in the last two years of beating and starvation in Kerala. To say that elephant is thriving in India, it’s not. There are less than 20,000 left, of which Kerala is killing as many as it possibly can. Begging elephants must get off the road. We must have elephant rescue centers. The Kerala Government has to take a decision now – to keep killing these endangered species or take action to rescue them.”

She added, “We have strong laws in place. Wildlife Act is a strong law but if Kerala Government chooses to ignore it, what can we do. It is because of the strong stance that the Atal Bihari Vajpayee led BJP Government took to rescue and rehabilitate bears that they are finally off the road.”

Maj. Gen. (Retd) Dr. R. M Kharb, Chairman, Animal Welfare Board of India and Mr. Vivek Menon, CEO, Wildlife Trust of India were also present for the screening.

“People are so blinded by greed and selfishness that they are unable to see the pain and suffering of another sentient and supremely intelligent animal.  Asian elephants are exploited all across India. They are tortured and traumatized in circuses and zoos, and worse yet by the temples under the guise of religion. How ironic it is to even think that Gods creations are tortured in temples, where people believe Gods live”, spoke Sangita Iyer, Director of the documentary at the screening.

Highlighting stories of elephant agony across the country, she added, “Aside from the barbaric torture inflicted to break their spirits, they are also psychologically and emotionally traumatized, as the cow elephants go insane when they are separated from their families. In Tamil Nadu, a baby elephant named Masini was ripped apart from her family in Mudumalai for a temple called Samayapuram with worst reputation. She was gifted by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Ms. Jaylalitha, who says she loves elephants. If she truly loves elephants she should allow them to roam freely. In Rajasthan tormented elephants were found in the most atrocious conditions, they were being exploited for tourism. I applaud the Supreme Court of India for placing an immediate ban on using elephants in the sweltering heat of Rajasthan. In an era that has seen so much progression, it’s time to ban use of animals, period. At the end of the day India’s animal rights record is being tarnished in the international arena, and India certainly doesn’t want to be like China, which has the worst animal and human rights records.”

About Gods in Shackles

Gods in Shackles is a 92-minute documentary film that explores the use of Asian elephants in India’s cultural festivals and temples. It was nominated at the United Nations & Jacksonhole Film Festival in New York March 3rd, and has won six international film festival awards within the first three months in 2016.

The emotional story unfolds against a stunning backdrop in Kerala, Karnataka and Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India. To amplify the beat of this film, the team gathered approximately 200 hours of powerful footage. Gods in Shackles is a story that has never been told before.

The team followed the lives of four celebrity elephants for a year – three male festival elephants, and the only female temple elephant named Lakshmi, featured in this film. A fifth male elephant named “Sundar” who made international headlines has also been featured. Sundar gives hope to thousands of temple elephants across Asia. His story is covered from capture to his release into a wildlife sanctuary – the Bannerghatta Biological Park in Karnataka.

Gods in Shackles aims to touch the hearts of people and empower them with knowledge, hope and confidence that will propel them to take positive actions and protect the endangered Asian elephants.

More than twelve people, including Kerala’s most revered priest Akkeramon Kalidasan Battathirippad, Kerala’s beloved poet laureate, Smt. Sugadha Kumari, Karnataka’s Presidential Award winner for Women Empowerment Smt. Suparna Ganguly, and world renowned elephant scientist, Dr. Raman Sukumar of the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, veterinarians, activists, animal welfare groups, and even owners and mahouts have been interviewed in an effort to provide balanced perspectives.

Gods in Shackles was produced within two years, and has been approved by the Central Board of Film Censorship certification, ready for public screening in India. Gods in Shackles was nominated by the prestigious International Elephant Film Festival at the United Nations General assembly and has won seven international film festival awards, including the Los Angeles Cinefest Award, Hollywood International Independent Documentary Film Festival Award, The IMPACT Docs – Award of Merit, Golden Award at the World Documentary Awards.

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