Tongs of Doom

Doggone it! We owe Lisa a big ‘thank you’

Divya Bhaskar (July 6, 2010) and Daily News & Analysis (July 11, 2010)

By Mallika Sarabhai, Ahmedabad

Jab Kutte pe sassa aya Tub Badshah ne shehar basaya.

How can we forget that our city of Ahmedabad, soon to be a grand old 600 years old, was built in a place where a timid dog let itself be chased by some rabbits. That was what made Ahmed Shah decide to build his fort here and create the city where he prospered.

Who doesn’t know of Yudhishthira’s refusal to enter heaven without the faithful dog that had followed him through perilous paths where all his brothers and wife had fallen? And the dog was none other than Dharma.

I have to admit, I am a serious dog lover. Anyone who has visited Darpana, our academy, or Natarani, our theatre will have seen or heard our dogs. I have 8, most of them, like me, mixed breeds (Don’t forget that I am part Gujarati, Tamil and Malyalee). And in fact, I love all animals. I can’t stand the cruelty with which we treat our cows by letting them loose on the streets and having their feet run over by cars, while at the same time talking of cows as mothers. (Of course, stories in the news of how we now treat our parents by dumping them in homes after we have secured the rights to the property in our names, should make us understand that calling anything mother is just a convenience).

So why am I going on about animals and dogs? Well, because of the space they have taken in the papers recently. Back from a trip I was confronted with news that some Canadian dog lover working for animal rights had been sued by AMC for 10 crore rupees for defaming them. That she had stormed into their office and taken away the tongs used to catch dogs. That she was out to vilify “us”. Then I read her rebuttals. Something didn’t seem true so I set about finding out the truth.

India has a law that dogs are to be sterilized and given anti-rabies shots and not treated cruelly. AMC treats them cruelly and worse (why are the Jains not protesting at such awful cruelty? And the dog lovers who proudly show their dogs at dog shows?) If you have an internet connection please stop reading and see this. AMC admits to catching 150 dogs this way everyday. And then half dead they let them off at Pirana to die.

By using these tongs AMC has broken Indian law and should be persecuted for cruelty and lawlessness. A government body breaking a law 150 times a day, every day! Think what would happen to us if we broke traffic rules 150 times a day!

Did Lisa Warden break into the AMC office and seize the tongs? Is it possible for a single woman and a woman interpreter to do this? Cell phone records show that there were conversations before this between her and AMC officials and that she was invited to come and remove the tongs. And allowed to do so. Not only that but there is a letter given to her by Ganji Choudhry of CNCD (Cattle Nuisance Control Department) after Lisa had removed the tongs and put them in her car promising never to use the illegal tongs again.

But the tong story continued in spite of the assurance to follow the law. And Lisa was even blamed for two or three random dog bites because “she has taken away our tongs and we could not catch the dogs”.

Over the last two days the papers have been full of smiling AMC officials welcoming the Chairman of Animal Welfare Board of India (who incidentally Lisa has been trying to get to Ahmedabad for months) and announcements of setting up a joint agency for the more humane treatment of dogs. Aha! So now the AMC tacitly agrees that its treatment was cruel – why else the need for humane treatment?

Only if AMC had been treating them cruelly, as Lisa alleges, would they find the need to suddenly call in the AWBI chairman. The latter assured us that “tongs are history, and that now dogs would be caught in nets, sterilised, given rabies shots and re-released. But lo and behold, the next day I spotted tongs in use. And who is going to sterilise the dogs? The only NGO that had been doing so has been blacklisted by AMC, for the Lisa Affair.

There are many cover-ups here, but I want one question answered. If it was Lisa’s actions that brought attention to the cruelty in the use of tongs, if AMC is caught breaking the law and admits suddenly to stop the use of tongs, and then files a defamation case against her for saying what they have admitted is the truth, shouldn’t their first action be to drop the absurd case? And then to thank her for drawing attention to cruelty which would certainly sour our dreams of becoming a heritage city or even attempting to be one?

In fact both as a dog lover and as a citizen of Ahmedabad I want to thank Lisa for what she has done. I am sure those of you who have seen through all the smoke will do so too. She has pushed us one step closer to becoming a better and more humane city and society.