Last winter, my Facebook newsfeed treated me to several images of the Kukur Tihar, a Nepalese festival that celebrates dogkind, with garlands, tikas, treats – the works. The images came only a few months after a tremendous victory for animal rights in the country – the ban on the bull slaughtering Gadhimai festival – and I drifted into 2016 filled with hope. But that hope soon ran out.
Several incidents over the last 12 months showed us the horrific lows to which human beings have sunk. And the unspoken message behind every incident of cruelty is this: non-human animals do not deserve safety, respect, or even the right to be alive.
After several sightings, residents of Chitradurga village in Karnataka cornered and attacked it with sticks and massive rocks. The bear would not have survived had it not been for forest officials, who intervened and rushed the animal to the Adumalleshwara Zoo for treatment. Officials were unable to identify and book those involved under the Wildlife Act.
A colony of ex-servicemen in Bangalore was left shaken after a woman named Ponnamma killed an entire litter of 15-day old puppies to “teach the mother a lesson” for giving birth outside her gate. She reportedly flung them across the road with so much force that some of them were found with their intestines out. The mother of the litter, a stray dog fondly called Ammu by residents, was devastated, howling through the night, and trying to approach residents for help.
Physical strain, exposure to high temperatures, a lack of care, in general, has spelt doom wherever captive elephants are made to labour. And temples in South India extract a lot of labour from elephants. 12 elephants have died in Kerala this year. By July, three had died in Tamil Nadu, and a Public Interest Litigation filed in Madras High Court also revealed that many temple elephants were malnourished and ill-treated.
The Patanjali food park near Kaziranga in Assam poses a massive hazard. A female elephant and her calf fell into a pit at the construction site. The mother succumbed to internal injuries and fractures, and her traumatised two-month-old calf was only moved from her side after a whole day.
Gautam Sudarshan and Ashish Paul of Madha Medical College filmed a video of themselves throwing a brown street dog off a terrace. For Fun. Rescued by animal rights activist Shravan Krishnan, the dog was named Bhadra and nursed back to health. But she suffered multiple fractures and will never walk normally again. Sudarshan and Paul were granted bail, and Bhadra still awaits justice under the Prevention of Cruelty To Animals Act.
Residents of Gurgaon’s Mandwar village chased and beat to death an adult leopard, filmed it on video, and posed triumphantly with its body before dragging it to the main road. Not only are Indian leopards dwindling in numbers, but human settlements have been encroaching on their natural habitats, and they often cross over into villages and small towns, disoriented. Even more disturbing than the violence meted out to the animal was the fact that forest officials were present and did not intervene.
Investigation found that medical students in Vellore had tied her up, burnt and beaten her. Scroll reported that “a stick had been inserted in her rectum and forced out through the front of her body.” Medical practitioners and animal rights activists alike were shocked by the crime, raising serious questions about the ethics being inculcated by these future doctors.
The man in question, Pramod, had initially offered food to a stray pup that had entered his house. In its enthusiasm, the puppy had scratched him, and for that, he brought out a blade to punish the animal. A case has been filed at the Palam police station under the Animal Cruelty act, but it remains to be seen where is goes.
Despite having many traditions rooted in animism, and an admiration for the natural world, India has not been an easy place for animals. While the realities of there are incidents happening in our own backyards that we cannot ignore. With every stick or stone used to harm an animal, a part of our own humanity dies.