Home Investigations

Animal enthusiasts beaten, bitten and traumatised; activists recount stories of abuse during pandemic

During the lockdown, when most people around the world were cloistered inside their homes, a few animal rights activists in India ventured

By Medhavi Mishra
New Update

During the lockdown, when most people around the world were cloistered inside their homes, a few animal rights activists in India ventured out to feed stray animals. The Probe has learnt that many of these animal enthusiasts were brutalised in various parts of the country during the lockdown. We bring to you stories of victims as they recount their tales of horror.

“When we decided to stand up for our voices to be heard, we were brutalised. 70 people beat us up. They broke my car window. The police station was far more horrifying than the incident itself. I was drenched in blood and when I walked into the police station, the first question they asked me was what I was doing in the station,” said Ayesha Christina.

Ayesha Christina, Animal rights activist | viral selfie video Ayesha Christina, Animal rights activist | viral selfie video

Ayesha Christina, a Delhi based animal rights activist and her team were beaten up in July last year when they were trying to rescue helpless street dogs. But Ayesha’s case is not just a one-off case. We spoke to many more victims who had faced the wrath of fellow neighbours and Resident Welfare Association (RWA) members allegedly for feeding stray dogs during the pandemic.

“They grabbed my arm and tried to twist it. I had a bruise. I couldn’t move my arm for around two weeks,” said Sampriti Dutta, another victim. While our team spoke to over a dozen victims during the course of this story, we learnt that these animal enthusiasts are caught in the midst of a man-animal conflict. Sometimes even children are not spared when it comes to violence against animal enthusiasts.

A 14-year-old victim | The Probe A 14-year-old victim | The Probe

“A man was misbehaving with a girl who was feeding a dog. I asked him why he was misbehaving. He charged at me. He bit me. He didn’t say anything. He just bit me,” said a 14-year-old victim. Another victim, Manupriya, claimed that she was kicked on her stomach by a man for feeding street dogs. The animal lovers claimed that it is not just non-cooperation from the RWAs that is revolting but police apathy is what makes their plight far worse. “I was told by the Police that my FIR cannot be registered because the whole society is against me,” said Tarana Singh, yet another victim.

Our team members also visited premiere apartments in Delhi NCR to find out why such instances of violence were being reported inside these housing societies. Most association members that we spoke to sided with local residents by saying that these animal lovers were not following feeding rules within societies, which in turn endangered the lives of the residents and their guests.

“It's one thing to feed dogs but our residents face problems when stray dogs are all around the apartment,” said Nikhil Sharma, Facility Manager, Galaxy North Avenue society in Greater Noida West. “These dogs are attacking the residents and their children. Apartment residents are even scared to take a walk because of the dogs,” said Narendra Singh, General Secretary, Palm Olympia in Greater Noida.

feed dogs

To nurture compassion for all living creatures is a right enshrined in the constitution under Article 51A (g). The Animal Welfare Board of India had recently issued a circular saying that the number of cases related to cruelty against animals saw a sharp rise during the pandemic and that people were beating up animals using rods and hard objects.

The Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India, Dr. OP Chaudhury told The Probe that the Board is making an all-out effort to curb such violence. “These animals are fed as per the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. So, there shouldn't be such conflicts. As a citizen also, we should have kindness and empathy towards these animals," said the Chairman.

While Dr. OP Chaudhury reassured The Probe team that the animal feeders have the Board’s backing, animal rights activists say that much needs to be done on the ground to implement existing laws to protect animal feeders and rescuers. Speaking to The Probe, BJP MP and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi said “The dogs have to stay within the community if they are born there. This means that obviously they have to be fed because it's a gated community. So, if there are people inside who are feeding these helpless animals, instead of appreciating them and saying that they are doing wonders for all human beings because if the dogs weren't fed they would get vicious, these people go about unleashing violence against feeders. We need our existing rules to be implemented more sternly to protect the feeders.”