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My head still reels from the shocking news of the ghastly killing of a two months old, stray pup near Takshshila college in Jabalpur (MP), by two drunken men a few days ago. This comes at a time when animal lovers like me are still recovering from the trauma of an earlier news about the merciless killing of a stray dog in our national capital, in November last year. Such cruelty towards the voiceless, strangely reminds me of the father of our nation who had famously said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated”.
Today, so many decades of ‘progress’ later, I wonder where we stand now with regard to our treatment of dogs especially our very own indigenous and homeless ‘strays’ whose existence has evolved around human habitations. They have now been sadly reduced to a ‘menace’, languishing in the streets awaiting human empathy; and not cruelty of this heinous magnitude!
I am surprised at how quickly we as a nation and society have forgotten our centuries old companions. I am appalled at the difference in treatment and attitude towards the pedigreed pet dogs and the destitute, ubiquitous ‘desi’ dogs. And, I also wonder why a robust, local Indian dog, best suited to Indian climate, is not deemed fit to be the cynosure of our eyes at home? The irony in a ‘dog’s life’; from pet salons to the killing streets! A lucky few enjoy pampering that would be the envy of any upper middle-class child, while a large, unfortunate majority face hunger and hostility. The need of the hour is to share the love and compassion that our society possesses for animals with the Indian pariah and mongrels too.
Stereotyping of mongrels
A lot of preconceived notions about aggressive behaviour are associated with the street dog and our default and coached human response is to look for the nearest stone. Would any abandoned dog regardless of the breed, reviled by us, behave any differently? Living in a pack or being territorial would be the natural survival instinct of any breed, not unique to the baptized-by-fire Indian pariah or mongrel. Moreover, if we humans with all our glaring flaws, have the right to live, they have it too. Animals must also be treated with compassion and dignity, being sensitive living creatures that they are.
Commodification of dogs
Welcoming home any dog regardless of its breed is a pleasure. However, when we gladly splurge on an imported, in-vogue breed, we sadly betray our ‘colonial subject’ mindset even today. Aren’t we indulging in conspicuous consumption even where pets are concerned? Furthermore, where is this mindless commodification of pets leading us? It is sadly encouraging numerous illegal, unregistered and unethical breeding practices of these intelligent and sensitive creatures. This trade is growing rapidly, feeding on our misplaced fancies of owning ’things’ foreign made; sometimes even to be cast away wantonly when the infatuation wears off or when we return to office, as has been evident during the ongoing pandemic.
In a lighter vein, adopting an ‘indie’ dog makes good economic sense too. Remember a popular car advertisement punchline: “Kitna deti hai?” Will our society obsessed with such a skinflint’s mindset on all acquisitions, not assert its nous and begin to avert a developing tragic crisis, that concerns our ‘best friend’s future in our backyard?
Not all is lost though
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his “Mann ki baat” address in 2020, hailed the role of ‘canine soldiers’ in the security of the nation and also encouraged citizens to choose from Indian breeds too, when considering adopting animals. The animal NGOs and animal feeders who work tirelessly to provide healthcare and rehabilitation services to the needy keep our hopes alive. It is also a pure delight to come across a picture of Carmelo Nene, Madhuri Dixit Nene’s pet ‘Indie’ dog beaming with his equally joyous family. Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli planning to build more dog rehabilitation shelters in Mumbai is indeed very heart warming. The same can be said about industrialists Ratan Tata, Azim Premji and the likes who add a new dimension to animal welfare causes with their egalitarian affection towards both pye and breed dogs. I am sure that such dominant and revered personalities are effecting a quiet mindset change in our society. Also, having more Indian dogs featuring in our movies and commercials would take us closer towards acceptance, inclusion and improving their lot. The Vodafone ad which made the Pug a favourite with pet owners validates the point.
To each his own
For people to be not fond of dogs or to be indifferent towards them is understandable. But, there should be no space in a civilized and evolved society to accept mindless injustice and cruelty towards animals. These must be met with zero tolerance, inviting harsh penalty or punishment.
— Ex-Capt Jayanti Sengupta Sharma
These pieces are being published as they have been received – they have not been edited/fact-checked by ThePrint.