By Debarati Ghosh:
Despite the facelift that the city has received of late, an ugly blot exposes the dark side of Kolkata, which no amount of façade can conceal. In the ‘posh’ residency complex of Diamond City West (DCW) in South Kolkata, the upper middle class residents have been lynching and slaughtering street dogs. An air of protests blew into the residency complex, after news of sixteen strays dogs being brutally killed made it to social media. Two residents, namely, Gopa Ganguly Karmakar and Monisha Bhowmick had reached out to an animal lovers group after having been verbally abused and physically assaulted by their neighbours. Their crime: intervening and protesting when another stray was tied up in a sack and beaten to death, with seven more queued up to meet a similar fate.
Some visibly disturbed young activists from the Kolkata Street Dogs (KSD) group sat outside the Sarsuna Police Station on the evening of 31 May 2016, awaiting their plight to be heard. A case had been filed against them with the local police for intervening in the brutal killings of strays by the members of the residency complex claiming, “The group had illegally encroached in our complex, entered our homes and beaten us up, cut our residents’ hands and legs.”
What is even more baffling is the reaction of the ‘human’ residents of the complex, which was anything but humane. The arrival of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader and animal rights activist, actress Debashree Roy to campaign against the killings, had been termed as that of ‘illegal immigrants’. According to Susmita Chattopadhyay, Ahana Dasgupta, and Kuheli Goswami of the KSD, their members were ‘manhandled’, ‘molested’, ‘physically assaulted’ and ‘abused’, their mobile cameras broken and SIM cards were taken away by the residents of DCW. Susmita adds, “Our attempts to vaccinate the strays have been foiled by the residents. The two female whistleblowers were not allowed to enter their own homes. They have been provided police protection.”
Although a case has been lodged under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, the members of the NGO, too, face imminent criminal charges for trespassing, harassing the civilised residents who were, perhaps, just keeping their complex free of street dogs and beggars, all for the sake of ‘development’ and ‘aesthetic’ beauty. The residents have flatly denied all reports of animal cruelty (making us question our own eyes when we see the available images and videos) and have righteously resorted to demonstrations on the streets by blocking the Biren Roy West Road to protect their right to perhaps live in a residency where only imported breeds are allowed. It is interesting to note that some had even compared the dogs to chicken and fish, thereby justifying their slaughter. This statement comes at a time when our nation is uniting to protest against the Yulin Dog Festival, where the Chinese are being prevented from consuming their food. Too much hypocrisy, I say.
Humans are said to have evolved from animals. However when animals are more loving, caring and expressive even in their ‘stray-dom’ and man behaves like a savage in the ‘kingdom’, the evolution should really be questioned.
With the local newspapers taking up sides and presenting news of either version, the real problem lies in our idea of development and our entitlements. This city which boasts of ushering in an era of development has a lush history of poisoning cats, burning dogs and beating dog feeders to death. The penalty for animal abuse ranges from a whopping Rs. 10 to Rs. 50. One would presume it is more like a welcome invitation than a deterrent. I guess that already delineates our take on the importance of this issue.
Featured Image Source: Getty