"People speak sometimes about the 'bestial' cruelty of man, but that is terribly unjust and offensive to beasts, no animal could ever be so cruel as a man, so artfully, so artistically cruel," Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky had once said.
The video of a man from Chennai throwing a dog from a rooftop, which came up on social media on Monday, just shows the pride which some people take in inflicting cruelty on animals. What makes matters worse is the pathetic condition of the laws made to protect animal rights in India.
According to News18, the video — which was shot in slow motion — shows the dog whining in pain before the man grabs the dog by his neck and throws it off the rooftop. Right before he throws the dog, the man decides that it is completely appropriate to smile for the camera. Because of course, what is more joyful than throwing an innocent dog who is shaking and whining from a rooftop?
We are not linking the video because of its disturbing nature. But the fact that a video was taken only shows that the person shooting the video decided that taking a video was more important than saving the poor, helpless animal.
According to reports, the person throwing the dog has been identified as Gowtham Sudarshan, a final year MBBS student of Madha Medical College in Tamil Nadu. The shocking act was captured on camera by his friend, Ashish Pal, who has also been named for abetting the crime in the complaint, the police said.
"When we saw the video, we were shocked. It was a barbaric act and the perpetrator and abettor must be punished by law," animal welfare activist Antony Clement Rubin, who lodged the complaint along with other activists, said.
Kundrathur Police confirmed that an FIR was registered against Gowtham Sudarshan and Ashish Pal under provisions of IPC and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, adding they are on the look out for the accused.
Such "artistically cruel" acts, as Dostoyevsky described so aptly, show that there are people in our country who enjoy hurting defenceless animals and take pride in such acts. According to the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), "Sadly, animal sacrifice has now become a means of showcasing the status of the person making the sacrifice. Animals like camels and horses are commonly slaughtered in this status parade."
And this video, which went viral, is not even the first instance of people treating animals like lifeless objects.
In March this year, a woman in Bengaluru killed eight puppies by flinging them onto a boulder to teach the mother (of the pups) 'a lesson'. And the 'lesson' was given because the mother of the puppies had simply given birth in a drain next to her house.
The neighbours of the culprit also said that she felt no repentance, given that after killing the puppies, she casually said, "accha nahi laga, fek diya."
Just a day before that, a man had been caught on camera brutally stabbing three stray dogs and killing a puppy outside Green Park metro station in south Delhi. In July 2015, a man had tortured a dog by whirling it around after holding its legs and then throwing it at a parked car in Delhi.
And what is the punishment for such heinous crimes? If the culprit is a first time offender, the maximum punishment is Rs 50. If the culprit is a repeat offender, the maximum punishment is a fine of Rs 100 and imprisonment for three months.
Yes. You read it right.
According to the Section 11 of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, if a person "beats, kicks, over-rides, over-drives, over-loads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering or causes, or being the owner permits, any animal to be so treated," that person shall be punished "in the case of a first offence, with fine which shall not be less than ten rupees but which may extend to fifty rupees and in the case of a second or subsequent offence committed within three years of the previous offence, with fine which shall not be less than twenty-five rupees but which may extend, to one hundred rupees or with imprisonment for a term which may extend, to three months, or with both."
Laws as obsolete as this Act (which has not been amended since 1960) have turned animal rights into a joke in India. As long as these laws are not amended, horrible crimes against animals will continue. Even the Supreme Court has asked the legislature to amend the PCA Act. On Tuesday, the apex court sought an explanation from the Centre on the delay in framing stringent rules under the PCA Act, according to The Indian Express.
According to Humane Society International, the Supreme Court in the case of Animal Welfare Board Vs A Nagaraj, had said, "Parliament is expected to make proper amendment of the PCA Act to provide an effective deterrent to achieve the object and purpose of the Act and for the violation of section 11, adequate penalties and punishments should be imposed."
Apart from the weak laws, fighting for animal rights is tough in India. Jaagruti, a private trust which functions as an information helpline and a street animal first aid and vaccination service, mainly in Delhi, quoted animal welfare activist Gauri Maulekhi as saying, "The courts generally give custody of the animal back to the owner (who abused the animal) at the first hearing. Lawyers make you go round and round with procedures and often lose sight of the objective altogether."
What makes matters worse is that politicians, on whom the responsibility of creating better laws rests, are themselves not enthusiastic about animal rights or making cruelty against animals a serious offence.
Parties like DMK, AIADMK and BJP have made statements in support of Jallikattu, a banned bull-taming event earlier held in Tamil Nadu. Terrified bulls during Jallikattu were often deliberately disoriented by being given substances like alcohol, having their tails twisted and bitten, being stabbed and jabbed by sickles, spears, knives or sticks and being punched, jumped on and dragged to the ground.
Cruelty against animals (from chasing a stray dog to kicking a pigeon) will remain a reality unless the attitude of our society changes. Laws need to be resurrected and serious punishments need to be handed out, otherwise the sense of shameless pride associated with it will not go away.