Horror and Shame

Two young children mauled to death by stray dogs. Had it occurred elsewhere, the horrifying incident would have created nationwide outrage, but this being Kashmir, where life is cheap and violent death round the corner, it barely found a mention on 24 X 7 TV networks that turn even mosquito bites into breaking news.

Not that this was an isolated tragedy: stray dogs are a commonplace sight in our hospitals too, and their numbers are rising with every passing day, and the human population is literally going to the dogs.  Not only do stray dogs inflict injury and disfigurement, they are also potential carriers of the fatal Rabies virus. Moreover, they have the run of the road, especially during night-hours, and cause many an accident, especially of two-wheelers which they chase, terrorising the riders and throwing them off. They also create a nuisance by raising a din while foraging for food and fighting for ‘territorial’ rights. There seems to be no solution in sight for the problem as it is bogged down in legal wrangles, ironically. stemming out of “humane” considerations. Earlier, local civic bodies would kill stray dogs by various methods to keep their numbers in check. But several agencies and NGOs claiming compassion for animals have put a stop to this, and some humane methods have been proposed, the more prominent being sterilization and immunization.

          In any case, these ‘humane’ methods have never really been implemented, the main hurdle being the “resource crunch,” which is understandable to some extent. In a country where a considerable number of people cannot afford the basic amenities of life and authorities cannot provide shelter and food to the masses unable to fend for themselves, it does seem rather farfetched to adopt stray dogs and provide them board and lodge. Moreover, in a country where a majority of the human population is unprotected in terms of immunization, it does appear unreasonable to expect that every stray dog can be immunized. It is a fact that people cannot afford the anti-rabies vaccine and the anti-rabies serum, and they are not provided free in hospitals, not even in the city’s main referral hospitals, not to speak of health centres in the peripheries. Sterilization isn’t really a solution – not in the short term, at least. It might render stray dogs incapable of procreation, but does not stop them from biting, or barking, for that matter. This has resulted in a stalemate between the authorities and animal rights activists, and in the meantime people continue to suffer from avoidable pain and agony, and danger to life and limb.

Love for animals is a laudable sentiment, but needs to be informed with a sense of proportion, and impact on human-beings. Activists’ “compassion” appears a little suspect as they are paradoxically unmoved at the plight of those who have to face the stray-dog menace, considering that most of the time the victims are small children. One wonders as to why the activists’ bleeding hearts are not touched by the miseries of homeless kids who, more often than not, have to pay for the sentimental luxuries of campaigners belonging to the elite sections of society.

 If this criticism appears unjust, it should be considered against the background that once these activists achieve their objective of putting a legal spanner into the government’s works, they sit smug over their ‘achievements’ and remain indifferent to the plight of the humans suffering due to the standoff. Their ‘compassion’ would have been much more palatable were they to pursue their idea of a humane solution to the stray dog problem to its conclusion rather than celebrating their victory of having saved the canine population at the cost of human lives. Even India’s most celebrated symbol of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, recognized that stray dogs were a problem, and writing in Young India (dated October 21, 1926), went so far as to suggest that they ought be shot dead, irrespective of whether they are rabid or not.