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faces of compassion Hiranmay Karlekar
faces of compassion Hiranmay Karlekar

Hiranmay Karlekar talks about humans and their response to the universe

Every day we hear of mass killings, terrorist acts, avoidable accidents and wars. They hit the headlines and we shake our heads. What is happening to the world, we wonder. Then someone comes along to say we should set up a bird pond in the common courtyard of the apartment block. The idea doesn’t elicit much of a response from hardworking citizens, commuting long distances, slogging long hours, immersed in day-to-day worries. A woman is spotted feeding the stray dogs of the area. They bark and scramble for a share as they mill around her. She goes back inside, and the dogs wander off to sleep in the shade of whatever trees they can find nearby. Some neighbours gnash their teeth. She and her type encourage street dogs to breed in the best of colonies. They propagate the street dog menace…

Is there a missing link between these sentences? Ask noted journalist and author Hiranmay Karlekar, and his reply will be firmly in the negative. Reading his book, recently published by Sage India, “Savage Humans and Stray Dogs — A Study in Aggression”, one comes to realise that the same dangerous tendency that causes human beings to band together to slaughter their fellow humans from time to time also makes them want to stamp out stray dogs, hunt for pleasure and utilise increasingly more savage techniques to kill animals, as happened in Bangalore from January to April 2007.

The book has been written against the background of what he names “The Killing Fields of Karnataka”, when the municipal authorities and other official bodies of Bangalore allowed mass killings of dogs under the most inhuman conditions. The slaughter ostensibly began after two children were bitten by stray dogs and died. The simple truths that animals never attack except in self-defence or in defence of their young and that mass slaughter would never solve the stray dog ‘menace’, since the breeding rate would outstrip death rate anyway, were ignored.

Karlekar has put together the book with as much precision, research and cross-referencing as any of his other books — his last being “Bangladesh: The Next Afghanistan?”.

Some would consider his love for animals a relatively less serious side of his life, but that is just the compartmentalisation he is against. “That’s exactly why I’ve gone into the depths of the matter,” says Karlekar, genial in his learning, calm in his rage against the genocide of animals.

In the book he quotes Charles Patterson’s “Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust” that illustrates how the assembly line slaughter of animals inspired the assembly line of car manufacturer Henry Ford. “And Ford was the darling of the Nazis,” points out Karlekar about the businessman who adapted the same quick production method for the grisly system used in concentration camps to kill Jews.

The dormant tendency to kill causes pleasure. “I’ve analysed the roots of this pleasure in terms of sadism and masochism,” he explains. When human beings step out of the mother’s secure ambit, they experience insecurity. They can deal with it either through “the art of love” or through sadism and masochism.

“Killing is the ultimate sadistic art. The ultimate form of sadism is mass killings,” he adds.

“Hitler is forever damned in history,” he continues. So supporting mass killings needs an excuse.

To say that dogs cause rabies provides an excuse. In his book he painstakingly shows how statistics used to bolster such arguments don’t add up, how World Health Organisation guidelines could not have been inaccessible to the perpetrators of the violence against the dogs, and how data collection by the authorities was based on flawed methods.

The facts point to a conspiracy on the part of some party or parties to create mass hysteria for the benefit of a few. Who gained?

Karlekar refrains from making straight accusations, merely pointing out the “conflict of interest” that would inhibit those who sponsored a survey from admitting the truth. Simply but unassailably, Karlekar says, “We need a new kind of society. Our attitude towards nature is colonial.”

ANJANA RAJAN

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