It isn't a big surprise that Uttarakhand politicians killed Shaktiman. When politicians themselves are being traded like cattle — calling them horses would be an insult to Shaktiman — lives of animals at their mercy become cheap.
Shaktiman died on duty, remained steadfastly loyal to his job, did not trade his allegiance and remained dignified in both life and death. He didn't give up till the last moment, kept eating, going through his daily routine before dying in the stable he had joined 10 years ago as a part of the police force. It is a shame none of these attributes fit the Uttarakhand politicians currently in the bazaar for the highest bidder.
No, nobody wants his alleged murderer's leg or life in return. "Very sad. I already said that I am not at fault, if found guilty then cut my leg,” Mussoorrie MLA Ganesh Joshi, the politician accused of attacking Shaktiman with a stick, told ANI on Wednesday.
Mr Joshi, a leg for a leg may be the credo of humans, especially of the intolerant breed you represent. But animals do not seek vengeance. I am willing to bet had Shaktiman lived on, if the prosthetic leg people from across the world were trying to fit on him had worked, she would have merrily cantered along the hills of Mussoorie with you on her back. She may have even saved your life someday by valiantly charging at a crowd thirsty for your blood for some reason.
Joshi can keep both his leg and tears. Even if he gets a clean chit from courts, pleads innocence or prevaricates, the biggest punishment for him is this: For the rest of his life people would remember the MLA as the beast that treacherously attacked a horse on duty.
In the history of India, several men are known for their bravado against wild animals. Dozens are known as Sher Khans, Sher Afghans and Sher Singhs for fighting with tigers and lions with their bare hands. Just as they remind us of man's bravery, Joshi would remind everyone of humanity's enormous penchant for treachery, cowardice, bestiality and impotent rage that is vented out on the meek and the helpless.
Shaktiman, on the other hand, would become a legend. Like Rana Pratap's warhorse Chetak, the brave white mare from Dehradun, will become immortal, a part of lore.
It is said of Chetak that when Rana Pratap was retreating from the Battle of Haldighati, the brave Kathiawari horse ran for almost five kilometres in spite of being injured in the leg. When it came across a wide river, Chetak jumped over it and saved the Rana's life from the enemies chasing him, but died in the process. The grateful Rana built a cenotaph in the memory of the horse at Haldighati.
In his death, Shaktiman has given us the opportunity to ponder the plight of animals, the treatment meted out to them by humans they serve. On Indian roads, we see hundreds of them suffering because of lack of care and their misuse as bearers of burden.
Hundreds of frail horses, ponies, oxen drag overloaded carts through Indian bazaars and roads. Some of them are sole breadwinners for huge human families. But, they get just the bare minimum to eat and are discarded once they become useless.
The biggest tribute to Shaktiman would not be a statue, a cenotaph or even a park Joshi is threatening to build if he comes to power. Let us enact new laws for welfare of animals, stricter punishment for cruelty against domesticated animals. And call it the Shaktiman Act.