It is wrong to believe that brutality towards animals has a limited fall-out. Police indifference to crimes against animals has grave implications for society
Three examples from Vadodara, Mumbai and Delhi respectively underline how the response of the police in India leaves much to be desired in cases of crimes against animals. In the first, an utterly friendly and docile community dog, Rheo, was repeatedly and savagely hit on the head with sticks while it was sleeping inside a building called Race Course Towers. In excruciating pain and trauma, he bit a shopkeeper as he fled. The pursuing mob continued to batter him until he finally managed to disappear. Brought to a veterinary hospital later, he was declared dead on arrival as a result of brain haemorrhage.
A complaint was lodged with Gotri Police Station on May 28. The police did register it and arrested four persons on June 3 after Ms Maneka Gandhi's intervention. All the four, however, were released on bail by the evening as the offences they were charged with were bailable. The complainant, Ms Hansa Roy, an animal rights activist who has done wonders for Vadodara's stray dogs, is now apprehensive of her own and her family's safety as one of the accused has threatened her. Moreover, arresting a culprit is only the beginning. Much depends on how a case is investigated, constructed and argued. What happens now, therefore, needs to be closely watched.
The same goes for the second incident, which occurred on Inlaks Hospital Road, Chembur, Mumbai, early on May 25 morning when three men attacked a harmless stray dog, and killed it by stabbing it repeatedly and hitting it with a stone. Another dog, Tiger, owned by a local resident, Kumar Chetty, was also attacked, but managed to escape.
A part of the attack was caught on CCTV cameras mounted outside Mr Chetty's home, which clearly showed what had happened. The Mumbai Mirror reported on May 27 that Mr Chetty went to the Chembur police station to register a complaint; the personnel there refused to do so citing political pressure. They finally registered it on May 25 night after intervention by activists of the organisation, In Defence of Animals.
Two of the three accused persons — Sham and Sunny — were arrested on May 25 night but were bailed out on May 26 for `10,000 each. The third accused had yet to be arrested at the time of writing. The question remains as to how seriously the police will pursue the case. The Chairman, Animal Welfare Board of India, Maj-Gen RM Kharb (Retd), has officially written to the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai, urging effective action and it will be a scandal if the guilty still go scot free.
Whatever it is, some preliminary action has been taken in Vadodara and Mumbai. Unfortunately, no action whatever seems to have been taken in respect of regular and merciless beating of stray dogs by security guards in Pragati Vihar Hostel, where Central Government officials live, in the heart of the nation's capital, New Delhi. Despite a complaint having been registered with the lodhi Colony Police Station as early as February 19, 2013, the beatings continue in blatant violation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, and Ms Dipanwita Majumdar and her son Rahul, who feed and care for the dogs, wage a lonely battle .
When talking about the indifference and worse of police in India toward punishable crimes against animals, one often faces the question: What should receive priorityIJ Crimes against humans or animalsIJ In their paper, ‘From Animal Cruelty to Serial Murder: Applying the Graduation Hypothesis’, Jeremy Wright and Christopher Hensley write in The International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology: “Since the late 1970s, the FBI has considered animal cruelty to be a positive indicator of future serial murder”.
In ‘Childhood Cruelty to Animals and Subsequent Violence against Humans’, in a different issue of the same prestigious journal, linda Merz-Perez, Kathleen M Heide and Ira J Silverstone, write, “Offenders who committed violent crimes as adults were significantly more likely than adult non-violent offenders as children to have committed acts of cruelty against animals in general and pets and stray animals in particular.” It is animals today; it will be humans tomorrow.