Noida couple Rohan and Himshi Tyagi have now hired a lawyer to defend them and their beloved husky, Nawab, should the police come knocking at their door. But they don’t even know if there is an FIR against them for taking their dog on the ‘Char Dham Yatra’ to Kedarnath Temple in Uttarakhand and seeking Nandi’s blessings for him.
All they have are media reports that Uttrakhand police have booked them for hurting religious sentiments. “We came to know about the FIR from a reporter in Uttarakhand who had called us for a story. We don’t have a copy of the FIR,” says Himsi.
For over three weeks now, the couple is unable to make sense of the hate. “All we did was hold Nawab’s paw to a statue of Nandi. A priest even put a tilak on his forehead. For that, we have received so much hatred. We are being persecuted,” says Rohan.
When fame is a fickle friend
With over one lakh followers on Instagram, Nawab Tyagi is an influencer in his own right after he became India’s first dog to go paragliding in Manali in 2019. Although clips of him calmly enjoying the scenery while strapped safely in a harness with Rohan won him praise, videos of his latest adventure in Uttarakhand has earned him and the Tyagis brickbats.
The couple shared a video of Nawab on the outer premises of the temple on 11 May. In the clip, Rohan is holding the husky while guiding his paw to touch the statue of Nandi.
When the video found its way into the Twitterverse a week later the response was outrage and anger. In the face of this backlash, the Shri Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee directed the state administration to look into the matter.
Are places of worship only for humans?
The couple, however, doesn’t believe that places of worship are exclusive to humans. Rohan cites the example of Yudhisthira, eldest of Pandavas, who was blessed by Lord Indra when he refused to ascend to heaven without his loyal dog by his side. “But I have been attacked for taking my son to seek blessings of god,” he says.
Kedarnath temple was built by Yudhisthira to seek penance from Lord Shiva for killing his cousins during the course of Mahabharata. Himshi says, “There are various places of worship in India where animals live in the premises of religious places. This whole argument that religious places and God is only for humans is wrong.”
Rohan, an event manager by profession and Himshi who used to run a restaurant, are both out of work since the pandemic. They have been traveling with Nawab for a while now, and have taken him to various places in India. “We have always been welcomed. On two occasions, the priests even invited us to get Nawab inside the temple’s inner sanctum for darshan,” says Himshi.
Social media ruckus
On social media, one of the more vocal protesters is Twitter user Abhishek Semwal, who has since then put out multiple tweets against the couple.
अलग-अलग प्रकार के वीडियोस बनाए जा रहे हैं अलग-अलग ट्रेंड चलाए जा रहे हैं अपनी गलती( नंदी जी को जूते से स्पर्श) न मानते हुए कुत्ते को आगे रख विक्टिम कार्ड खेला जा रहा है @AjendraAjay जी कार्यवाही पूर्ण होनी आवश्यक है 🙏 https://t.co/BfAW4Ywi2v
— ABHISHEK SEMWAL (@Abhiisshhek) May 21, 2022
भैरव का वाहन Reels वाले छपरी की
रोजी रोटी का साधन pic.twitter.com/Lijq81FKfZ
— ABHISHEK SEMWAL (@Abhiisshhek) May 19, 2022
Other people on the microblogging site too have expressed their displeasure at the ‘attack’ on culture. The argument varies, from ‘Kedarnath being a sensitive zone’ and ‘making of reels is offensive’ to ‘how people nearby did not prevent the act’. But the crux is ‘hurting’ religious statements and culture:
This, is height of shamelessness. If this isn't stopped today, we won't be able to show our faces to our future generations.
Denigration of our teerths by tiktok generation, unmarried couples going on leisure trips, adventure tourists & random trekkers needs to be stopped ASAP. pic.twitter.com/7ZZgPCljAA
— Rahul Kaushik (@kaushkrahul) May 18, 2022
थोड़ा सा भी दिमाग रखने वाले इंसान को पता होगा कि केदारनाथ सेंसिटिव जोन मे आता है।यहां 6 महीने यात्रा होती है और बाकी दिनो कपाट बंद रहते हैं।और इस अवधि के दौरान देश-विदेश से लाखों श्रद्धालु बाबा जी के दर्शन को आते हैं।अगर हर कोई ऐंसे ही Showoff करने के लिए अपने-अपने Pet's को लेकर. https://t.co/VapoWn19V0
— Sangeeta K.Kandwal🇮🇳🇮🇳 (@Sangikukretika1) May 19, 2022
More than a pet, member of the family
Rohan and Himshi welcomed Nawab into their lives four-and-a-half years ago, and consider him their child. “He does not live in our house, we live in his,” says Rohan. The husky ‘works out’ with Rohan.
Their car, a Thar, has been modified to accommodate Nawab, which they also took along for their trip to Kedarnath in May.
One constant allegation against Rohan, which he denies, is that he made the video to garner likes and followers on social media. “I would not spend around Rs 50,000 to just make a reel. I can always take him nearby and make one if likes and followers were my goal.”
The couple has been running Nawab’s Instagram handle for three years. Fans often send across packages of dog food, which the couple uses to feed around 50 stray dogs in their locality. For Rohan, every animal is important, and every trip the couple has undertaken is to show how India can be more pet-friendly. “I just wanted to capture our memory of the trip. Isn’t it human nature now to take photos and videos and put them on social media, be it while eating out or just on the road? I was doing the same.”
While social media trolling and hate comments have flooded the page, so have support and love. The couple says that they have been overwhelmed with the kind of support Nawab’s followers have extended. “People have fought on comments over the hate directed with us, and the hatemongers have also had to delete their comments and unsend DMs,” says Himshi.
Neither she nor Rohan are deterred by the controversy. They are already planning their next trip with Nawab.