By Sandeep Rawat:
Mahatma Gandhi once said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
I was shocked as well as saddened by the recent news about brutality against an innocent animal during a political protest. What deepened my grief was the fact that it had happened in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. Since I was born here and the love for the state is rooted in my heart, I saw this matter from a different perspective and would like to share it with you.
Uttarakhand is among those states which saw little violence even when its people made the demand for recognition as a separate state. As compared to other states like Telangana where many died during agitations, here it was peaceful and non-violent. We are the people who carried out the famous Chipko movement in which women would gather around trees and tell the administration that they would have to axe them before cutting down the trees. A non-violent protest of its own kind to protect nature and those who cannot speak for themselves!
The people of Uttarakhand faced one of the largest forced rehabilitations for the construction of the Tehri Dam. More than a lakh inhabitants were dislocated from their land for the dam, the electricity generated from which is mainly for Delhi, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. We did not see any major violence even then!
Local people in Maletha, Uttarakhand have been sitting for months on hunger strike to protest against the stone crushers which are damaging the natural biodiversity of the region but you may hardly have heard any news of violence from there.
Like in other hilly areas, we worship many deities inspired by nature and living beings like animals, trees, stones etc. around us. These teach us to respect nature and those living beings we share this geographical space with.
Famous adman and poet from our state Prasoon Joshi once said that mountains teach us to be in harmony with each other and to struggle against odds but in a fair manner. But an incident like this is enough to tarnish the image of its tolerant and non-violent people and its legacy of non-violent protest. No matter how important the protest is, our politicians should learn from the legacy of our non-violent protest movements.
Meanwhile, the horse’s leg has been amputated and, while her condition is critical, the blame game is still on. And the sad part is that the main convict has been penalised with Rs. 50 under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. This is sad and shameful!
When an innocent animal has to pay the price for the anger and intolerance of a few politicians, we need to think about where we are going. Using this single incident to paint our entire political setup or the citizens of India as intolerant would not be fair. But we need to introspect much about the driving forces which divide us in the name of the cow and which behave brutally with a horse. Anger on social media and beyond is a positive sign. It indicates that we retain some of our sanity and respect for other living beings around us. Let’s hope we maintain that because a country is known by how it treats its animals!