Hated, honoured: Activist hunting for stray dogs divides Kerala society
For almost two decades Jose Maveli, a Kochi-based activist, has been rescuing abandoned children and helping them piece together their lost childhood but lately he has been in the news for the wrong reasons.
Jose Maveli is a man possessed, pursuing what he says is a mission to save his home state Kerala transforming from “God’s own country” to “Dog’s own country”
His mission is macabre: killing dogs and exhorting others to do the same in a state where some 2.70 lakh strays prowl the streets of its cities.
After a man was mauled by strays in Varkkala in the state’s south last week, he organised the killing of 40 dogs in revenge. Locals supported his gory act and when the police arrived, they foiled his arrest.
Maveli, 66, already has eight police cases pending against him under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. But he remains undeterred and has emerged as the public face of the campaign against stray dogs in Kerala.
The state is facing a canine crisis so huge that the matter got discussed recently in the state assembly. Some 10 people have been mauled to death and there have been 90,000 dog bite cases this year alone. As a fierce debate rages on to how to resolve the problem – mass culling or sterilization – Maveli insists it is time for the public to take matters in their own hands.
In September, he was arrested for urging people to kill dogs in Cheganamad. A few days later, he was booked for offering Rs 500 to anyone who kills a dog. In early October, he was again booked for accepting an air gun from an organisation that backs mass culling of dogs.
Anjali Sharma, a member of the state animal welfare board, has accused Maveli of fear-mongering and provoking people. Animal lovers of the state liken him to a ‘demon’.
But Maveli insists he is no killer by choice. “Killing of dogs is for securing the safety of men, women and children in the state,” he says.
“We killed many cattle when foot and mouth disease broke out and two years ago in Kuttanad (central Kerala), lakhs of ducks were also culled in the wake of bird flu threat. No cases were registered against anyone then. Why dogs are not killed when they pose grave danger to people,” he asks indignantly.
Maveli – who runs an NGO and claims to have rehabilitated hundreds of abandoned children – says he is full of love and compassion. “I never killed a dog before. But what can we do when monstrous strays attack small children and elderly people,” Maveli, who currently shelters 250 children at his Jana Seva Shishu Bhawan, asks.
He cites a recent article written by a senior IAS officer who claimed that the sale of anti-rabies vaccine was a Rs 7,000-crore business in India. “Kerala is their biggest market. They want strays to multiply so that their business will thrive,” he alleges.
He says stray dogs are also responsible for some 30 percent of accidents involving two-wheelers in the state.