(Mr. Mehmood-ur-Rashid, 39, was born in Srinagar. He graduated from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He has been active in journalism for over ten years, and currently works at the Greater Kashmir (GK), having worked in the past at the Rising Kashmir as the Features Editor. The columnist is presently the GK Magazine Editor.)
Leashing the Beast
Horror. This is the only word to explain what people face these days in the streets of Kashmir. Just two days before newspapers in the valley brought out the scale of that horror once more on their front pages. It looked like a report from a war zone. Kids crying while treated for dog bites, bruised body parts, and mauled faces – dogs have declared war against people. Animal Rights Activists must be cheering from the galleries!
The pictures were spine chilling but more depressing was the fact that we are completely helpless in this situation. Dogs can maul our children but we cannot touch them back. They can bark at us with all ferocity but mind it, you cannot even whisper back. Law has placed an embargo on humans, courtesy Animal Activists. One wonders what is the difference between Animal Activists and Activist Animals!! Who is the real beast, Dog or the Law!
In the year 1992 when the law was framed we had some stray dogs who posed no danger to us. Had the alternative ways of dealing with them been adopted then, we would have rid our streets from dogs long back. But nothing was done for years till it grew into a life threatening problem. From past some years when the instances of dog bites went alarmingly high and newspapers consistently covered the stories of children being bitten, the government and the animal rights organizations came to the rescue of dogs, as if it was really about dogs. From day one the subject was confused. It was about the threat posed to the human life and not the question of animal rights. The crackpot idea of sterilizing the hundred thousand dogs was presented as the solution to the problem. How many years would it take to sterilize these dogs and when will finally we have dog free streets; and for all those decades who will take care of our children, men, woman, old and young. And the pens and pounds and the millions earmarked for them; it is so stupefying. Had people somehow put across their problem to the canine kingdom better solutions could have come forth. The latest idiocy is to assign a dog to a human – a well built young man from Kashmiri - for a monthly salary of some thousand rupees. Absurdity has a limit. This government and all its organs have failed; it’s a multiple organ failure that can only culminate in death.
The solution to this problem lies in questioning the law that has put the human life to peril. Normally problems in a society or a state are solved in accordance to law or tradition. Deviation from either the law or the tradition invokes some sanction, and all this is done to maintain an order in the society. But there are times when law or a tradition in itself becomes a threat to human life. After all the entire institution of lawmaking is based on this. What is the point doing legislation if law is considered final and binding for all the times and situations. States have intervened even in the areas usually considered religious when it was found to adversely affect the human life. All the legislations that laid the foundation of the modern society were done only by rejecting the earlier bodies of law and tradition.
The situation that has risen in the valley is an occasion to stand against the logic of the law that was framed in 1992. It is not the question of Animal Rights now which it could have been then. Law in this regard has turned into a beast. The culpability rests with those who framed the law without taken care of its consequences. Why is it a crime to cull the dogs that threaten human life when in the same world we see millions of chickens culled when some disease breaks out in chickens that can transmit to humans. Someone may point out that law doesn’t forbid the culling of rabid dogs either. True, but is it a rabid dog alone that poses a threat. Of course, it is not. Rabid is not the reference, it is threat. The essential point is the safety of human life. Sterilization cannot ensure it, pens and pounds don’t seem to do it. Employing young men to take care of dogs is a detestable idea. If law is to decide on the question of what constitutes nuisance, it is time for our civil society and the lawyers to make a strong case for humans. The pictures of children mauled by street dogs must be a convincing argument.