This article was first published in the *OPED* Page | Thursday, March 18, 2010 | The Pioneer
By Hiranmay Karlekar
Killing of stray dogs reflects the ultimate form of sadism
What is there in common among some Maoists committed to a violent overthrow of the existing state, some bureaucrats sworn to uphold the Constitution of India and the rule of law, and some presidents of Residents’ Welfare Organisations? The answer is simple: The killing of stray dogs — or the ordering of their killing — which is prohibited by law. The Animal Birth
Control (Dog) Rules 2001, promulgated under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, only allow for the removal of stray dogs for neutering and vaccination against rabies and their subsequent return to where they had been taken from. The Guidelines for Dog Population Management, issued in 1990 by the World Health Organisation and the World Society for the Protection of Animals, and several other WHO reports, make it clear that this is the only scientific way of reducing the population of stray dogs.
The logic of the animal birth control programme is that dogs, being territorial, prevent other dogs from entering their domains. Neutered and vaccinated stray dogs prevent un-neutered and un-vaccinated dogs from other areas from entering their territories. Hence, having neutered dogs in one area, those administering the ABC programme can move into another and repeat the performance. In this manner, an entire city, State or country is covered and the number of stray dogs declines steeply as each of them lives out its biological span of life. Then why the killing?
In the case of Maoists, it is a part of their war against the state. The barking of stray and pet dogs warns police pickets and villagers of their presence; surprise attacks are foiled and arrests facilitated. They are not alone in this. Terrorists in Punjab and those sent across the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir by Pakistani terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammad, had asked locals to kill all dogs in their respective villages. Significantly, Mr Swaranjit Sen, when he was the Director-General of Police in Andhra Pradesh, had asked all police stations to adopt local stray dogs who would alert them to the approach of Maoists at night.
To Maoists, the killing of stray and pet dogs is a part of the collateral damages of war, which affects innocent people as well. There is a measure of truth in this. According to a report, a herd of 80 elephants is in dire straits in south Bengal as their return to their habitat is prevented by the presence of Maoists and security forces in the forests through which they have to pass. In *All Quiet on the Western Front,* Erich Maria Remarque gives a heart-rending account of the agony of horses wounded in World War First. The issue with Maoists is the deeper one of violence as an instrument of capturing power, which is unjustified in a country where parliamentary institutions for peaceful change in Governments exist and where even revolutionary changes in socio-economic relations can be wrought through constitutional amendments. As the results of the French, the Bolshevik and Chinese revolutions indicate, revolutions devour their children and seldom achieve their goals.
The problem with civil servants, particularly heads of municipalities who are aware of the law but still order the killing of stray do, is different. They display an utter contempt for the Constitution and an arrogance whose effects are felt in arbitrary and savage actions in other fields as well. If this makes them unsuited to holding high offices involving the exercise of a significant measure of power, their actions and the demand for killing of stray dogs by heads of RWA, also displays a genocidal streak.
In his seminal work, “Fear of Freedom”, Erich Fromm shows how sadism reflects a desire to overcome one’s own feeling of insecurity through domination over others. The most complete form of domination is over life itself which is realized through an act of killing. Genocide is the most grotesque expression of sadism.
Since a call for the mass killing of a religious community or an ethnic group will immediately fetch mass opprobrium, a substitute is sought in the killing — or ordering the killing — of stray dogs. Hence we return to the question: Can people calling for it be entrusted with offices of power?
(Mr. Hiranmay Karlekar is Consultant Editor, The Pioneer and Author of the book titled, ‘Savage Humans and Stray Dogs: A Study in Aggression’)