20 July 2019 11:12 PM

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SHOMA A.CHATTERJI | 8 JULY, 2016

It's A Dog's Life After All....


This story may be forgotten in the midst of the Dhaka terrorist attack that snatched the lives of 22 innocent. But placed in perspective, it is no less shocking and brazen an example of the brutality of man towards his feathered and four-legged friends. Two young men, Gautam Sudarshan and Ashish Paul, medical students in Chennai, flung a dog from the top of a multi-storied building and captured the fall in slow motion on video. About two weeks back, one could on social networking sites in video see a man grinning maniacally and holding a little brown dog over the edge of the terrace and then dropping her, just like that! They are medical students who will be responsible for saving people’s lives. How will they save human lives when they are without motive, spontaneously but in cold blood, attempt to murder a little dog?

The video went viral on social media, enraging civilians and animal lovers and activists. But the two young men fled in fear to their respective home towns in Tamil Nadu. Later, they were forced to surrender, suspended by their college and produced before a magistrate who fined them Rs.50 each in lieu of a jail sentence, Rs.10 as fine under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and granted them bail. The dog suffered a fracture in the leg and is being taken care of by a doctor who said the animal was faring well.

In March this year, a police horse, Shaktimaan, was beaten up by the goons of BJP MLA Ganesh Joshi. Joshi was seen in a video clip attacking the horse at its legs and the other agitators adding to the horse’s agony. The horse was badly injured and was carried to a vet hospital in a truck. A team of ten doctors fixed Shaktimaan’s fractures with external fixation of an artificial limb. In an attempt to stop the spread of gangrene, the doctors amputated its leg. But it died needlessly after the surgery and nothing happened to the MLA. The Prevention of Cruelty Act is pretty outdated. It is a 1960 law and a change is urgently called for because offenders like these two men get away with a fine of Rs.50.

There are brutally cruel cultural practices still running rampant in the country that kill innocent animals and birds in the name of tradition, money, employment and entertainment. This is an organized crime going on for a very long time despite new laws that ban them. High stakes in money involved in these so-called traditional sport practices pay a deaf ear to recent legal statutes that ban them.

Cockfights in Andhra Pradesh are a mega sporting event that defines the highlight of the Sankranti festival. The events are held in private farms specially fenced off for fights and tables are set for gambling. The cocks are pitted against each other and the betting runs into hundreds of crores of rupees. For increased entertainment value, a sharp knife is attached to the claw of the game cock. Specialists are hired to tie two to four inch blade to the bird's limb. The cocks are then forced to fight until one dies or is so critically injured that makes it unable to stand up. Due to such cruel and illegal conduct of cockfights, the traditional sport is banned in the state by the High Court.

Opposing the cockfight NG Jayasimha, a member of Animal Welfare Board of India says, "The cockfights subject birds to horrific injuries. Also, it promotes betting racket, child labour, business of illicit liquor." But the ban is only on the paper it is printed on and the cockfights go on illegally.

In 2011, Yetri Maaran, director and writer of the Tamil film Aandukalam which won six National Awards, designed a graphical display of a violent cockfight in the film to reveal the dark side of this blood sport. The film was a huge hit in Tamil Nadu and also did well in Karnataka. It was released in 12 countries where the Tamil Diaspora resides. It did exceptionally well in the United States. “Admiration for the bird goes back to my childhood when my family lived in Ranipet, where the popularity of cockfight is next only to cricket. Cocks fight each other over territory. This sport finds mention even in ancient Tamil literature. As much as I value this sport for its cultural value and identity, I detest roosters being made to fight each other for sake of man's recreation. The rooster fight sequence in my film has been created graphically. All animal welfare processes were adhered to. I do not want animals to be subjected to cruelty,” says Yetri. Many birds are forced to fight to death every year in Madurai in the South, in Puducherry, etc. violating the ban.

Jallikattu is a bullfighting sport popular in at least four districts of southern Tamil Nadu. The controversial bull running sport , opposed by animal rights activists and championed by politicians, was put on hold by the Supreme Court. By a judgement in May 2014, the top court had prohibited the use of bulls in ‘Jallikattu’ festivals, holding this practice to be an offence under the law. In January this year, the Supreme Court restrained the Tamil Nadu government from conducting this traditional bull-taming sport and stayed the Centre’s notification lifting the ban on it. The court imposed the interim stay until March 15 this year which, apart from Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, prohibited bullock cart races in states like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat during this period.

Cinema is a major area that is notorious for giving short shrift to the animals and birds in films. Animals are used as characters in films because they add extra entertainment value to the film and for the universal appeal such films have for the entire family in general and children in particular. The most popular animal is man’s best friend – the dog. Dogs have been living as companions of human beings for God Alone Knows how far into the past. Filmmakers have used every imaginable four-legged species from camels through elephants, cats, monkeys, horses, donkeys, bears and even an occasional chimpanzee or orang-utan in their films! Aquatics like fish, winged species like birds of all kinds, invertebrates like snakes and sea animals like crocodiles are used to add to the drama of the story.

Laws to protect animals featuring in films are hardly enforced because official monitoring machinery during shooting is absent and it is nearly impossible to get living proof of mistreatment and abuse.

In 2005, in response to PETA India’s approach to frame legal interventions for empathetic treatment of animals in films, the Bombay High Court issued a judgement that called upon the Central Board for Film Certification (CBFC) to ask applicants to furnish a no-objection certificate from the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) before certifying any film in which animals have been used. But who is listening? Coming back to the two medical students’ heinous act, one is forced to question which between the two - the medical students and the dog is the animal?

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