The politics of dogs - from Chandigarh to the northeast
By Jaideep Sarin, Chandigarh, July 7 : Politics may hardly have anything to do with dogs. But the developments in Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab, and in the northeast in recent days, have literally dragged dogs into politics.
The issue started with a Congress legislator in Punjab, Ajit Singh Mofar, bringing in a resolution recently in the Punjab assembly seeking that the menace of stray dogs in the state be tackled.
The issue remained serious enough till this point, given the increasing number of dog bite cases across Punjab. But what Mofar said in the assembly got everyone - from politicians in Punjab and northeast to animal rights activists - involved in a dog-fight.
Mofar had said that to tackle the stray dog menace, authorities in Punjab could "send them to China, Nagaland and Mizoram for whatever they do to them".
"We can make arrangements to catch such dogs, put them in jungle or zoos. Maybe we can then send them to Nagaland, Mizoram and China where they are more needed," Mofar had said.
While the Punjab assembly saw peals of laughter at the suggestion, it brought stern reactions from the northeastern states and also from animal rights activists.
The Meghalaya unit of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) demanded a public apology from the Congress legislator and sought disciplinary action against him from the Congress party.
"We demand strict disciplinary action from the Congress party for making such a statement which is derogatory," NCP state working president, Clifford Nengnong, was quoted as saying. He termed Mofar's utterances as "reckless" and "unbecoming" of a senior politician.
Mofar's resolution and comment was obviously in context of practice in some areas in the northeastern states and in China, where dogs are killed for their meat.
"Stray dogs are such a big nuisance. Even going on a walk has become dangerous because of them," Mofar said.
He pointed out to the sharp rise in cases of dog bites in Punjab - an estimated 15,000 dog bite cases are reported annually in the state.
Reacting to the controversy, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) has written to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and sought action against the Congress legislator.
FIAPO campaign coordinator, Alokparna Sengupta, said Mofar's statement was "not acceptable at all". He termed the statement as "irresponsible, inhumane and appalling".
Leader of opposition in Punjab assembly and senior Congress leader, Sunil Jakhar also did not side entirely with Mofar's comments.
"Such things trivialise the issue," Jakhar told media here.
An NGO, People for Animals, said that while the stray dog menace and bite cases need to be addressed, the method suggested by the legislator was not good.
"It is inhuman and unethical. Dogs have the right to live as well," said People for Animals president Saurabh Gupta.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)