(Mr. Junaid Azim Mattu, 26, was born in Srinagar. He partly completed his schooling at the Burn Hall School, Srinagar, and partly at the Bishop Cotton School, Shimla. He attended college in America and graduated with a degree in Business and Finance from the Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University. He is a consulting financial analyst and telecom-IT entrepreneur based in Srinagar. A seeded national varsity debater throughout his school and college career (his grandfather - Khwaja Ghulam Ahmed Ashai - was one of the founding fathers of the Muslim/National Conference), Mr. Mattu also played under-19 cricket at national level for J&K. He is a founder of the World Kashmiri Students Association (WKSA), a global youth association for Kashmiris based in Srinagar, Kashmir, working on social, economic and political issues through constructive and informed activism. WKSA, as of today has 1,700+ registered members in Kashmir. He is also a nominated alumnus of the Global Young Leaders Conference. He is also the Srinagar District President of J&K Peoples’ Conference, led by Mr. Sajad Lone. In his leisure time, Junaid likes to engage in reading, gardening, watching movies and listening to music.)
Cannon-Fodder to Canine-Fodder
Kashmiris have been victims of fate’s cruelest jokes. We have lived through the trauma of a political turmoil that saw thousands of our young men lowered into adolescent graves; thousands of brides widowed, thousands of apple-cheeked children orphaned. From massacres to molestations, from arson to crackdowns and from curfews to teenager executions, we have seen the darkest wells of hell and have shuddered in a fear of our own shadows. Now when the violent phase of armed turmoil, militancy and counter-militancy seems to be behind us, our tyrannical, deaf-and-blind rulers have resolved to disallow Kashmiris from experiencing the dividends of peace. Growing up amidst the crackle of gun-fire and the omnipresent aroma of gunpowder, this generation of Kashmir was reprimanded to the relative safety of their homes before dusk lest a stray bullet finds a youthful forehead. Two decades later, we still have to ensure our children and elderly are safely locked up within the compounds of our homes lest a rabid, stray-dog feasts on their conflict-zone flesh while a dyslexic, “dynamic” young government is busy painting our footpaths black and white. Wonder, apart from the rhetoric and cosmetic semblance of governance, what has really changed?
We have inherited a habit of accusing Delhi for everything – our unmotorable roads, our power deficiency, our state of economic rot and almost every other thing under the sun. It has been four long decades and our diagnosis has always stopped short at escapism. We have subconsciously chosen to absolve our own traditional political families and their parties from the sins they have committed, the war-crimes they are primarily and singularly responsible for. Kashmiri children being mauled and shredded by hundred thousand stray dogs is not Delhi’s problem – neither its creation. The buck stops with us as a people. Are we so undignified a nation that we will watch our children traumatized by animals into nightmares and sleeplessness while the children of our tyrants blossom in metropolitan cities in India and abroad? The Dog Menace has now reached a stage where technicalities and legalities cease to matter. This lunacy has now gone from the scale of a menace to a clash of civilizations – a clash between ordinary Kashmiris and the protectors and political patrons of our stray dogs. Our “government” is lost somewhere between the ever trendy feeds of Twitter and the scam/scandal-firefighting that we witness almost bi-annually. Drowned in corruption and moral malignancy, successive NC and PDP governments have ridiculed our issues and pressing grievances even when, as is the case now, it is about the safety and survival of our children.
Did a hundred thousand Kashmiris die so that the third CM from the Sheikh Monarchy would be cowed into a corner by Maneka Gandhi’s frowned brow while our toddlers are chased into rivers by packs of stray dogs? Did a hundred thousand Kashmiris die so that four dozen people in Srinagar city alone could be mauled by stray dogs in a single day? Did a hundred thousand Kashmiris die so that a government would have the audacity and nerve to talk about Dog-caretakers and Dog-pounds as our streets become humo-canine war-zones after sunset?
This government has the nerve to talk about sterilizing a hundred thousand stray dogs by a process where it would not be able to sterilize more than five thousand stray dogs a year! Net result – a negligible decline in the rate of reproduction. Negligible decline! As every single day goes by, our stray dog population is increasing geometrically and will increase despite dog-pounds, Rehbar-e-Hoons and Pied-Piper, folklore “solutions” from our Divisional Commissioner. Crores of rupees have been allocated and spent on lunatic measures that won’t so much so put a ding into the dog menace issue. Soon contracts for stray-dog food and infrastructure will be doled out to chosen political workers of NC and PDP.
Srinagar Municipal Corporation is a criminal accomplice in this issue. Had the former Municipal Commission of Srinagar been one-tenth as concerned about the safety of our children as he was about pleasing those in power by allowing and disallowing constructions based on political affiliations, maybe this menace wouldn’t have reached this alarming stage! Maybe 51 humans wouldn’t have been mauled by stray dogs in a single day! But alas – SMC’s role has been defined as an obstructionist, chaotic force of negativity and not one of development, sanitation and growth-friendliness.
What’s the solution you ask? In simple, politically-incorrect English – We need to kill stray dogs – humanely and scientifically – but kill them without further delay. Either this government borrows two ounces of self-respect and humanity from a State government elsewhere in India and starts eradicating the stray dogs OR Kashmiris take the issue in their own hands and form Mohalla Committees to eradicate stray dogs as and when required. We now need to protect, if not our own lives – but the lives of our young children – (borrowing from Malcolm X) “by any Means Necessary”.