By Sanjana Sanghi:
Ayesha Christina, an animals’ rights activist and the founder of the NGO, Neighbourhood Woof, recently found herself amidst a rather complex controversy involving the Residents Welfare Association of Mukherjee Nagar in North Delhi and the Delhi Police. Ayesha was allegedly roughed up on 21st March by the residents of an apartment building, when she tried to pick up four dogs to sterilize them. Residents have claimed that Ayesha bit a man, when they asked her to show an authorization letter from the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to pick up the dogs under the Animal Birth Control Program. Such allegations are, however, in stark contrast with what Ayesha has to say about the incident. As a result, both the parties have lodged police complaints.
Witnesses on several social media platforms, laden heavily with disgust, have written vividly about the event. Many of these posts describe the incident as a “night of horror” because the activist was thrashed black and blue by a group of women who were a part of the gradually accumulating mob outside the residential society. The posts also suggest that the police watched as this menace unfolded and later, snatched Ayesha’s phone, keys, and all the other valuables. Several photographs of the mob standing outside the Mukherjee Nagar Police Station, turning their faces away from the camera, engaging in a conversation with the SHO, while munching on namkeen, have been posted. Many witnesses have said that the police literally directed the mob on how to rough up the activist. The activist was not only beaten but she was also almost disrobed by the mob.
Veer Singh, the Station House Officer (SHO) of Mukherjee Nagar, has gone on record and stated, “It was not such a big issue. It was a small squabble. A complaint has been registered. It is pending.”
Ayesha’s version of the story
We, at Youth Ki Awaaz, got in touch with Ayesha to get her side of the story and a more comprehensive perspective.
Here is a gist and some of the excerpts from our conversation:
As Ayesha informed us, she lives in the residence building opposite Signature View Apartments and was allotted this space by the MCD last December for sterilisation and vaccination of the local stray dogs, as prescribed by the Central Government. According to Ayesha,“My own RWA accuses me of pocketing the money the government grants me for the dogs and believes that I’m not only responsible for increasing the population of stray dogs, but I also throw them away in some area, or poison them.”
Ayesha has also, often, been accused of possessing six-seven ‘dangerous’ dogs. She has frequently treated dogs in and around the area, and nobody has ever stopped her. She did not expect that the issues she had been facing with her own RWA would reach that of Signature View Apartments and spark such a controversy.
“As I headed there to perform my tasks, the MCD doctor gave me a sensible advice and suggested that I should make an official letter on the behalf of my organization, with due approval from the MCD, stating the course of the activity that I will undertake,” says Ayesha
Ayesha was unable to understand the cause behind the residents of Signature View being so difficult, she also reiterated that nobody usually has a problem when she goes to treat stray dogs, or pick them up. On showing the authorized letter by the MCD, the members of the RWA still did not believe her, suggesting that anybody could fake it, and she should get them in touch with the MCD directly. The MCD doctor then, called the RWA president describing in detail as to what exactly Ayesha was going to do.
To this, the RWA President said, “Anyone can claim to be the MCD over the phone. Tomorrow, I can claim to be Obama. Will you believe me?”
The MCD Doctor reaffirmed that he would have it sorted out and that she can head to the other areas and continue the work.
She, therefore, picked up 3 other dogs from the scheduled areas, and decided to pick up the letter of authorization on her way back, because the insistence of the RWA on getting the letter continued.
“After getting the letter, I decided to ask the nearby PCR van to come along with me, as I genuinely needed some help in dealing with the residents,” adds Ayesha
The police went along with Ayesha, but a larger number of constables and more residents accumulated gradually. A girl going into the society to meet her friend stopped to say, “Hey she’s only helping you guys out and sterilizing the dogs!”
The police stopped her and did not let her go and visit the friend.
Ayesha, then, called up the SHO, with whom an official conversation through text messages had already been established, wherein she had informed him of the constant harassment that she had undergone due to the RWA.
“The situation is getting out of control, I need your help,” she told him, trying to explain the increasing intensity of the prevailing situation. The SHO never picked her calls up after this.
In the meantime, a policeman, who was there, asked Ayesha to go ahead and pick up the dogs, reassuringly stating, “Don’t worry, you go ahead. We will take care of the RWA.”
When she came back after picking up the dogs, a raging mob had gathered in front of her. The women were asked to come forward and take charge, so as to avoid any allegations of sexual abuse or harassment, if the men came forth. The police had made the MCD letter disappear and snatched Ayesha’s belongings from her.
Where do we stand
Several activists and friends of Ayesha, then reached the location, where the incident had unfolded, and their presence resulted in a definite change of attitude of the police and the residents. Six activists belonging to Vasant Kunj Animal Lovers reached there and found her badly roughed up. With any medico-legal case, the police are supposed to send the victim to a government hospital with a request for conducting a medical examination, which did not happen in this case. Ayesha believes that this was done so as to make sure that she was absent when the statement of the RWA is recorded.
N Gyana Sambandan, DCP Northwest district stated, “We have received complaints from both the parties. We will also probe allegations against the policeman accompanying her.”
Therefore, with clear accounts from the witnesses, and personal accounts from the victim, the true picture seems to be fairly clear.
However, patience will be required till the case moves forward and any new developments happen. As for now, this incident is yet another breach of human dignity and respect, and the failure of a respectable civil code. We hope that justice will prevail.