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Mahatma Gandhi’s dog violence, and Mithu’s Facebook foray

World Rabies Day (September 28) comes close on the heels of the controversial “public strikes” against stray dogs in Kerala.

punjab Updated: Oct 03, 2016 20:25 IST
Vikram Jit Singh
Vikram Jit Singh
Hindustan Times
Gandhi Jayanti,Mahatma Gandhi,parrot
Stray dogs are an equal threat to the man and beasts. Dogs lay siege to a cheetal in Karnataka’s Joida taluk.(Photo: Shivanand Bangare)

World Rabies Day (September 28) comes close on the heels of the controversial “public strikes” against stray dogs in Kerala. The spectacle of dog bodies displayed on streets and the killers owning responsibility stung dog advocacy groups, who cited violation of prevailing laws. Today is Gandhi Jayanti and it would be relevant to re-visit his views on stray dogs, especially as advocacy lobbies are fond of citing Gandhi’s supposedly over-flowing compassion. Such lobbies may cite modern methods of sterilisation to counter Gandhi’s views below but the effete results of such drives and burgeoning dog numbers have resulted in sustained questioning of prevailing policies. The point is, Gandhi did not abhor killing as a means of dog control.

Writing in the ‘Young India’ of October 28, 1926, Gandhi declared: “The multiplication of dogs is unnecessary. A roving dog without an owner is a danger to the society and a swarm of them is a menace to its (society’s) very existence...But can we take individual charge of these roving dogs? And if we cannot, can we have a pinjarapole for them? If both these things are impossible, there seems to be no alternative except to kill them...I am, therefore, strongly of the opinion that, if we would practise the religion of humanity, we should have a law making it obligatory on those who would have dogs to keep them under guard, and not allow them to stray, and making all stray dogs liable to be destroyed after a certain date.”

Addressing the moral question on violence against dogs, Gandhi drew attention to public indifference to the menace. He declared in the ‘Young India’ of April 4, 1929, that all dogs that cannot be cared for by municipalities “should be shot”. Gandhi continued to state: This, in my opinion, is the most humanitarian method of dealing with the dog nuisance which everybody feels but nobody cares or dares to tackle. This laissez-faire is quite in keeping with the atmosphere of general public indifference. But such indifference is itself himsa, and a votary of ahimsa cannot afford to neglect or shirk questions, be they ever so trifling, if these demand a solution in terms of ahimsa.”


The captive parakeet, Mithu Karwal. (Photos: Mithu Karwal on Facebook)

Ring-necked parakeets are often kept illegally as pets. One such ownership that took a novel turn was with regard to a parakeet affectionately named, ‘Mithu Karwal’. He has a Facebook account in his honour and takes his caste lineage from his human benefactors. Mithu’s existence came into the public eye after his principal keeper, Shivani, left for Canada. Before departure, she put up Mithu Karwal for sale (`7,000 including cage) on social media groups. The sale offer was made through the ‘Mithu Karwal’ Facebook account operated by Shivani and it hosted photographs and videos of the captive bird.

I contacted Shivani and sought an explanation for the parakeet’s illegal possession and sale offer. Her reply revealed the torturous path humans negotiate as they stumble through the minefield of emotional attachments, greed to make a quick buck and the contradictory demands of the law. ‘’Mithu flew into our balcony seven years ago. I believe he escaped from someone’s house. But now I have moved to Canada and my family is finding it hard to take care of him. I have been searching for a good home for him for months now. I just want a family for him that likes birds and will take good care of him and let him out of his cage a few hours daily...I know

he is an illegal bird but he has always lived in homes and I don’t think he’ll be able to live in the wild if I let him free,’’ Shivani told this writer, while skipping mention of her vain bid to illegally sell Mithu.

As a way out of the impasse, I advised Shivani to have her family in Chandigarh hand over Mithu to the UT forest department. She did not comply with that and has since retreated into silence like an apparition of the internet. I am not even sure that the real name of this shadowy puppeteer of a real parakeet’s Facebook account is Shivani.


The magur catfish caught at Sukhna Lake. (Photo: Vikram Jit Singh)

Readers will recollect a familiar image from cartoon comics: a fishing rod bending like an inverse ‘U’-shape amid expectation of a dream catch. After much struggle, a discarded car tyre emerges reluctantly from its watery dump to the chagrin of the angler and jeers of spectators. Walking along the Sukhna lake promenade recently, the cartoon flashed through my mind when I chanced upon two anglers straining to control a very bent fishing rod. This was no tyre they had hooked because a big fellow was thrashing in the water and testing rod and angler. After a fine fight, the feisty fish was landed and it turned out to be a 2.5 kg Magur, a species banned in India due to its exotic/hybrid origins and predation of native species. The Magur triggered a rush from some of the walkers and visitors to the lake, who were keen to get a selfie clicked with the “big catch’’. I was intrigued by the pair of anglers for they made quite the odd couple. It turned out the younger fellow was Prashant Gurung, a restaurant manager with ‘Sip N Dine’, Sector 7, while the older gentleman (and veteran angler) was Munna Ram, a humble employee with a government hospital. Angling had bonded them and they had spent an amiable afternoon at the Sukhna. They had also hooked some carps to boost the pot luck. Fish fried or curried and downed with a couple of Patiala pegs was the late evening agenda for these anglers. Truly, this friendship forged on the Sukhna’s banks, had navigated many cultural barriers.

First Published: Oct 02, 2016 09:28 IST