Milosevic — the musical — plays in Kosovo

Actors perform on stage during a rehearsal of the play ‘Slobodan Show’ in a theater in Belgrade on Feb. 27. (AFP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Milosevic — the musical — plays in Kosovo

GRACANICA, Kosovo: Twelve years after he died during his trial for war crimes, Slobodan Milosevic, the one-time Serbian strongman, divided his audience again, this time as a character in a musical that made its debut on Tuesday.
“The Lift — The Slobodan Show,” written by Belgrade-based writer Jelena Bogavac, focuses more on Milosevic’s personal relationship with his powerful wife Mirjana, his daughter Marija and his son Marko than on the politics that made him infamous.
Milosevic rode a wave of nationalism to power in Belgrade in 1989 as communism was collapsing across eastern Europe. He then led Serbia through a decade of wars in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. Hailed by Serbian nationalists as their champion against Catholic Croats and Bosnian and Kosovar Albanian Muslims, Milosevic was seen as a brutal dictator by the West.
Around 200 Kosovo Serbs attended the show at a theater in Gracanica, a Serb enclave just outside Kosovo’s capital Pristina. They expressed mixed feelings about it.
“There’s nothing there, it’s simply a great manipulation... a political theater which actually tricked us,” said Zivojin Rakocevic, a former journalist from Gracanica.
In one scene Milosevic comforts his daughter over the poor financial state of her radio station. In another he tells Marko not to overheat the water in the family swimming pool.
Milosevic lost power after a NATO bombing campaign in 1999 and popular unrest in October 2000.
The play ends with his war crimes trial in the Hague, where he died of a heart attack in 2006.
“I’m delighted ... the point of the whole show is in one sentence, when a young man says ‘Sloba (Milosevic) didn’t get under my skin’,” said Viktorija Zivkovic, who works in a local school.
“We tried to show through their personalities what happened both in Kosovo ... and in Serbia of the 1990s,” Belgrade-based actress Tamara Tomanovic said.
The play frustrated ethnic Albanians who form the majority in Kosovo, which declared independence from Belgrade in 2008 in a move still not recognized by Serbia and Kosovo Serbs.


Delhi’s last elephants await marching orders

Updated 21 September 2018
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Delhi’s last elephants await marching orders

  • Authorities have ordered the seizure of the elephants
  • Fifty years ago the Indian capital housed more than 200 elephants

NEW DELHI: The mighty Heera marched through a crowded slum chewing bamboo, oblivious that freedom from life as one of Delhi’s last six elephants at work in the polluted city could be just around the corner.
After years of pressure from activists who accuse the animals’ owners of flouting wildlife regulations by keeping them in a city, authorities have ordered the seizure of the elephants.
They plan to move the 40-year-old tusker — along with Dharamvati, Laxmi, Gangaram, Moti and Chandni — out of the smoggy Indian capital but warn it could take months to find a new home for them.
“They are kept away from their natural habitat,” a senior Forest Department official said, highlighting “reports of insufficient food, water, shelter and veterinary care, all which could expose them to disease.”
Fifty years ago the Indian capital housed more than 200 elephants, covered in garlands and carrying grooms to weddings, or being sought by the faithful for blessings at temples.
But now the city — overcome by cars, a population of 20 million and choking on pollution — is no longer a suitable home for the animals, with Heera and his five bedraggled companions the last elephants to live there.
Media reports say authorities are struggling to relocate the elephants because four are sick.
Officials hope to find a new home resembling the luxuriant farm belonging to consumer goods tycoon Vivek Chand Burman in Delhi where a seventh, female street elephant was recently taken.
She has her own mud pool and quarters complete with fans and sprinklers, a world away from her poorer relatives who wade in the Yamuna, one of the world’s most polluted rivers.

Animal Rights

But while animal rights campaigners welcome the move, it is a difficult moment for their owners — who deny any neglect.
Mehboob Ali likened it to snatching a legacy passed on by his ancestors.
“My family has been keeping elephants for six generations,” he said. “They are like our family and have been with us through thick and thin. We cannot live without each other.”
Heera’s keeper Mukesh Yadav has been looking after elephants since he was a child.
“I was so in love with elephants that I even decided not to marry. I felt that I must dedicate my life to the service of this holy animal,” he said.
The animals hold a special place in Indian culture, and elephant-headed Ganesha is one of Hinduism’s most revered gods.
Yadav bemoaned the loss of traditions that once allowed elephant keepers like him to work freely across the country.
“Earlier, people had a genuine fondness for these animals. A single village could have up to 20 elephants.
“We used to take a parade to graze in the fields and leave them to roam in the jungles. We would proudly present them at weddings and feasts. And now the government comes to us claiming that they are their property?” he said angrily.

Constant Inspections

Ali is infuriated by constant inspections of his elephants, which he believes are being done under pressure from activists.
He claimed that he has been harassed on several occasions by animal welfare groups.
“They are behaving as if we have stolen these elephants whereas they belong to us,” he said.
“Do you know that my great-grandfather was often given elephants as gifts by the maharajahs? And we have continued to trade them at animal fairs in various parts of the country.”
But activists counter that such claims mask a murky nexus of commercial exploitation, where little interest is paid to the animals’ welfare.
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said the elephants had spent most of their lives in deplorable conditions and must be taken back to the forests.
“If people are actually made aware of the brutal methods used to capture, tame and bring these elephants to the city, they would never want to see them here again,” he said.
“What would you choose, the joy of seeing an elephant rolling in the mud and walking the jungles, or seeing an abused and captive creature on the streets of Delhi outside a temple or a circus?“