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Understanding The ‘Shoot-At-Sight’ Diktat And The Dog Meat Ban In Nagaland

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Trigger warning: graphic violence, blood. 

In the time during the nation-wide lockdown across the country, a bizarre order in Nagaland went unnoticed by the animal lovers, activists, and the national media. The ‘shoot-at-sight’ diktat, as it reads, was issued against dogs roaming in the streets or found unchained in the house. These so-called decrees, which are illegal in nature were issued by various village council authorities across the state ahead of this pandemic with a fear that supposedly “dogs transmit the virus.”

Despite being declared illegal by the district administrations, some village councils have advised their villagers to keep the pet inside the house or will face the consequence. When the dog lovers across the state were criticising this inhumane order, a village in Mokukchung district reported two different incidents on the same day. Two dogs, Zoey and Partner, were shot at by an unknown person in Changki village in the north-eastern state on Wednesday. According to reports, Zoey died on the spot while Partner, who was shot right on his face, succumbed to his injuries on Thursday.

An Instagram community, with the name Pet Guardian Mokukchung, which has raised this issue said, “The owner came back last night to the village. Seeing him, the dog was excited so the owner let him lose for a minute but the dog ran out. Unfortunately, it came in front of a village council volunteer who shot him on the face.”

The shooting happened just ten minutes after the dog went out,” added a community member.

Acting promptly, the deputy commissioner of Mokukchung district issued an order and said, “Such form of cruelties is in direct violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Acts and Rules under Animal Welfare Board of India.”

On the killing of both the dogs, an FIR was filed at the Mangkolemba police station and the investigation is underway. Limawabang Jamir, deputy commissioner Mokukchung said, “Strict legal proceeding shall be initiated under section 428 and 429 of the IPC and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCAA) against any village authorities/wards authorities/individuals/groups in contravention to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.

However, Nagaland-based newspaper, Eastern Mirror reported that the chairman of Changki village council denied this and said he was not aware of the incident.

‘Shoot-at-sight’ Is Not New

It is believed that such orders by the village councils were announced even earlier with the fear that pet dogs carry rabies and they openly defecate which makes the environment unclean. There were also rules which ordered the pet owners to let loose the dogs within three hours or they have to pay fine. The fine could be a heavy amount or just a pig and the village council volunteer would take away the dog. There is no report on what the village volunteer does with the dogs.

In the political and social structure of Nagaland, village councils are known to be very powerful. It is evident that how the village council are in noncompliance with the order of state animal advisory board in August last year which directed all the district commissioner to inform that “shoot-at-sight” orders are illegal and against PCAA. Despite that, some village council across the state have issued such diktats.

It just didn’t happen in Changki village but one petition, dated more than four months back mentions that two dogs, Gunner and April were shot dead in broad daylight by the volunteers. “What hurt more was that they did not even give back the dead bodies of our dogs for a dignified burial. They took it back with them. We are assuming the worst that it was for them to consume it, as dog meat is considered a delicacy in Nagaland,” alleged the petitioner.

It is also mentioned that some village authorities threatened to shoot dogs if they see them defecating openly while few issues one-day warning to the residents to lock up their dogs. “It is distasteful that some authorities charge a certain amount of money to the owner if they want back the body of their dog,” said Sneptula Jamir whose petition is signed by around 11k people. “Everyone knows about this issue. It is not new. This has happened in the past,” she added.

There were also rules which ordered the pet owners to let loose the dogs within three hours or they have to pay fine. Representational image. Image credit: Getty Images

One dog owner who didn’t wish to be named, said, “shoot-at-sight order cannot be any ultimatum. It is illogical and serves no purpose but to hurt the sentiments of pet owners. We have right too!” A lot of people took to their social media and highly criticised the incident and condemned the failure of authorities to keep the pet safe. “The person who shot the dog and those who made this bizarre rule should be prosecuted and put behind the bar. How inhumane it is,” said Moorepeat.

The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) had expressed their concern with the growing number of alleged ‘shoot-at-sight’ orders being issued across the state. They raised the issue of such shootings and even appealed to the people to safeguard the dogs.

Earlier in May, Member of Parliament Maneka Gandhi who is also a forefront animal rights activist wrote a letter to the Nagaland CM Neipihu Rio saying that there is no evidence that dogs spread coronavirus while criticising the order and wrote, “every doctor and scientist has [stated] that, after much research, it is proven that dogs and cats do not give corona.”

She also talked with the state’s chief secretary Temjen Toy, who assured her that he will issue orders to the district administration to act on the so-called shooting order. But, exactly a month after, two dogs were reportedly shot. “This issue came up because the owner fought back. There must be more shooting which went unreported,” said Yim Jamir from Tuensang district.

Illegal Trade Of Dog Meat

The “shoot-at-sight” order is alleged to be directly linked with the illegal trade of dog meat. “Once shot, they don’t return the body. Either they eat or sell out commercially,” said a pet parent who wished for anonymity due to possible threat by the local bodies. ‘People for Animal’, an animal activist group founded by Maneka Gandhi alleged that the state of Nagaland has consumed all its dog and thus, there is a rise in smuggling of dogs from neighbouring Assam and West Bengal.

View this post on Instagram

Dog killing and eating carries on in Nagaland unabated. This is illegal according to the laws of India and it cannot be allowed under the guise of culture. It is time to stop it. All the dogs are now being brought in from outside the state as Nagaland has eaten all its own dogs. They come from as far away as West Bengal and Assam. Trucks full of dogs are being taken to Nagaland at night, crossing the border illegally. The dogs mouths are tied with rope so that they cannot bark. Many die of suffocation on the way. Many of you can be bearers of change if you simply write an email. I am not going to give you a prepared letter because I want you to make your own. This is a picture of the animal bazar in Dimapur taken on the 26th of June. I want you to protest in a civilized manner to the Chief Secretary of Nagaland Mr Temjan Toy and ask for the police to stop the dog bazars and the dog restaurants in Nagaland. The police should stop the dogs from coming in and the smugglers must be caught. This practice must stop. This is his email : I want *50,000* emails to go to him in *three days*. So for the next three days make sure you and all your friends write to him. *We can change the world together* Maneka Sanjay Gandhi @manekagandhibjp #save #stop

A post shared by People for Animals (@pfa.official) on

Recently, a photo of dogs being tied in gunny bags went viral on the internet which was supposedly taken on June 26 in Dimapur. “Trucks full of dogs are being taken to Nagaland at night, crossing the border illegally. The dogs’ mouth is tied with rope so that they cannot bark. Many dies of suffocation on their way,” said Gandhi in the social media post.

Since there are numerous reports, the one by PFA, on how the state has finished all their dogs. The target has now become pet dogs. On the name of societal safeguarding backed by political power, these diktats are just an exploitation to take away the pet dog for consumption. The ban on this trade was supposed to be imposed but it’s been more than a decade, we never heard it being implemented on the ground,” addressed a scholar from Nagaland.

Michelle, a dog lover said, “As a Naga, I have always been ridiculed. It is 100% true that some do eat dog meat but there are more passionate dog lovers and parent across the state. We want this to stop. The illegal orders for shooting and the consumption of dogs should end.” Whereas Tiarenla Anilar highlighted that for satisfying the stomach, killing a pet isn’t justified and said, “Our ancestors ate whatever they found for survival. Now, we have enough resources to survive. Please spare the pets.”

It is reported that the ‘smugglers’ pay Rs. 50 per dog to dog-catchers in Assam while the meat rate in the Nagaland market is said to be around ₹ 200-220. The dogs are also sold on wholesale price ranging from ₹ 1,000-₹ 1,200. In 2016, it was reported that the Nagaland government would ban dog meat but this has not caught the eye yet.

However, on Friday, due to outrage on social media, the Nagaland cabinet banned the illegal trade of dog meat. Chief secretary Temjen Toy wrote on Twitter after he received more than one lakh e-mails, “The state government has decided to ban commercial import and trading of dogs and dog markets and also, the sale of dog meat- both cooked and uncooked.” However, when tried to contact a government official on the bizarre diktats, there was no one ready to comment on the issue.

But, many Nagamese alleged that it just seems to be a mere promise to ban the illegal trade. “It is just a promise I believe. Why don’t they ban the inhumane diktats and all the authorities who pass such orders to shoot-at-sight?” questions  K Jamir.

However, the tweet by Temjen Toy has also bought criticism. Many Nagamese questioned the decision by the government for banning the consumption of dog meat, a part of Naga cuisine running down for generations.

I signed petitions and raised awareness for shoot-at-sight but didn’t expect a ban on one’s food choice. I don’t eat dog but I will definitely join a protest if you ban anyone’s choice of food,” said Mzurai Hegwang.

Finally, Nagaland joined hands to attack, what’s being served on our plates for dinner?” pointed out Mhonbembo Kithan.

The ban on consumption of dog meat by the state cabinet has been condemned, as well as, appreciated by various section of people within the state. According to the Food Safety and Standard Regulations, 2011, it’s illegal to slaughter dogs and cats for consumption. The slaughter of dogs and sale of dog meat is a violation of section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960. Moreover, this act also comes with charges under IPC section 428 and 429, which mention that killing or mutating an animal, which is not classified for human consumption, is a criminal offence.

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