Woman who made documentary on elephants in Kerala faces cyber-bullying

The Viswa Gaja Seva Samithi has filed a petition in the Kerala High Court seeking an order to the state government to dissociate itself from the woman who is a foreign citizen.
Sangita Iyer with a jumbo
Sangita Iyer with a jumbo

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Malayalees are passionate about elephants and Sangita Iyer is no different. She is the first woman who documented the plight of captive elephants in Kerala and made a documentary titled ‘Gods in Shackles’, a United Nations nominated and multiple award-winning film screened around the world, is a harried person these days. 

Her love for the jumbos has fallen foul with certain other fans of captive elephants so much so that an organisation named Viswa Gaja Seva Samithi has filed a petition in the Kerala High Court seeking an order to the state government to dissociate itself from the woman who is a foreign citizen. The court has sent a notice to the state government seeking its views on the petition. 

This is not the first time Sangita, who was honoured by the country by presenting the Nari Shakti Puraskar, which is the highest civilian honour for women in India, has faced the ire of festival lobby groups. Ever since the release of her film, she has faced cyber-bullying, and veiled and explicit threats. 

Innuendos, threats

She is described as ‘Sangita crypto Iyer’ on social media, accused of being a member of the FCRA (Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act) mafia and is bombarded with derogatory remarks. 

She had filed two complaints to the state police chief seeking protection saying that her safety is constantly threatened by the elephant mafia. The latest case was provoked by a training programme for the mahouts that she had led in October at the Kottoor Elephant Rehabilitation Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, after the Chief Wildlife Warden invited her and her team. She sought and got police protection when she came for the Gentle Giants Summit that concluded in the capital on Saturday. 

Speaking to TNIE, Sangita, founder of Voice for Asian Elephants Society (VFAES), said, “I’m being constantly threatened by the festival mafia as I’ve exposed the inhumane treatment of captive elephants. Everything I’ve done in Kerala is for the welfare for elephants, and so was the training programme, which was embraced by the mahouts and authorities.

“But, instead of changing their attitude toward the elephants, they’re making nefarious claims about my citizenship after failing to unearth anything incriminating against me. 

“My awareness and education programmes are based on scientific information that I’ve gathered over the past five years, since I took on this mission to end the suffering of the endangered captive and wild Asian elephants. In April, I conducted a programme for the Student Police Cadets, which was hugely successful.”

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