No one had heard of Shaktiman the police horse, until Monday when it was brutally assaulted with a stick allegedly by Uttarakhand Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Ganesh Joshi and his associates.
The animal was caught in the melee following a protest rally against the ruling Congress government in the state. For almost 24 hours, there was fear and uncertainty that the 14-year-old animal might lose one of its legs or even its life.
Citizens, celebrities and animal activists worldwide voiced anger and resentment at the attack, once the video of the MLA attacking Shaktiman was out on social media. PETA, the global animal rights group, said on Tuesday the MLA is a “danger to society” and must be sacked both from the legislature and the party.
“He must be disqualified from his post because any person who beat up a horse is not far from doing the same with people and is a danger to society. The party must not retain him,” PETA chief executive Poorva Joshipura said.
Joshipura also urged Uttarakhand Speaker Govind Singh Kunjwal to “immediately expel Joshi from the Vidhan Sabha on the grounds of extreme and criminal misconduct”.
“To ensure the maximum safety of animals, a strict action needs to be taken,” Poorva said.
She also urged BJP president Amit Shah to expel Joshi from the party.
“This is a party which is supposed to stand for everyone, including animals. How can it tolerate the bleeding of a horse?”
The matter rocked the assembly during Zero Hour when state BJP president and leader of Opposition Ajay Bhatt demanded a debate on “deteriorating” law and order scenario which was reflected in the “repressive measures” adopted by the administration on Monday to quell an agitation by the BJP.
Reacting sharply to Bhatt’s demand, parliamentary affairs minister Indira Hridayesh said a party which was itself responsible for the law and order going out of grip had no right to seek a debate on it.
Hridayesh said cruelty shown towards a hapless animal by the BJP’s Mussoorie legislator had put the party on the backfoot in its so-called movement against corruption and collapse of law and order.
The BJP MLAs shot back, claiming Joshi was “innocent”. The House was adjourned twice over the issue.
Joshi has rubbished the allegations and released two videos in order to prove that the cavalry police charged the party workers first. “I am being framed by the Opposition as today’s BJP rally was a big success. It’s not me who has beaten the horse. Even video clips do not show this. If found guilty, I will leave politics,” he said.
In a show of support to the animal, politicians visited Shaktiman at its stable for photo ops, forcing those looking after it to quarantine the horse. Vets identified multiple fractures in the hind left leg of the white horse.
Hours after Shaktiman was injured, chief minister Harish Rawat visited the animal at its stable. Later, Joshi and some other leaders also paid a visit. By that time horse was unable to stand.
“Political leaders are visiting the stable and disturbing the horse. It is in pain and veterinarians are injecting medicines to give him relief. In a bid to give Shaktiman rest, we are not permitting anyone to visit the horse,” senior superintendent of police Sadanand Date told HT on Tuesday.
A team of veterinarians from Pantnagar University arrived to inspect the horse. Shaktiman was operated upon and veterinarians fixed a steel structure on the fractured limb during the procedure that lasted five hours.
Date said the injury was fixed and no amputation was required. However, it was later decided to amputate the leg after doctors failed to restore blood supply to the limb.
Police officials rejected reports that the injured animal will be put down, maintaining that Shaktiman may be handed over to private stables or animal lovers if he is found unfit for police duty. Across the country, people stood by Shaktiman and offers for donations kept pouring in.
They said the horse will remain with the force despite offers for adoption that poured in.
Date said the horse has served Uttarakhand police for 10 years and therefore “police will prefer to keep Shaktiman in his home (stable)”.