Humans at their worst in COVID-19 Lockdown

When people were restricted to their homes on March 24th, I thought that it would be an opportunity for everyone to discover the best of themselves : they would read books, cultivate pot plants, play cards with the family, laugh a lot, breathe the better air, play with their children and animals, feed the homeless (animals and people), write jokes on Facebook, catch up on homework, learn cooking, play music.

But this didn’t happen. Just as people in jail become vicious and want to hurt each other, many of India’s people became as mean as jail birds - especially those that, like jail wardens, had the power of their little kingdoms of villages and communities. It is as if we were in a sci-fi movie and the monsters had taken over. The heads of so called “resident welfare committees” actually broke into people’s flats if they had animals. I had to rescue a boy, who fed cats in Mumbai, and send his attackers to jail. And he is one of several thousand that became victims simply because they had a gentle compassionate side.

These “elected” heads ran vicious campaigns in their local Facebooks threatening to beat feeders. They locked gates and ordered guards to beat the animals inside the compounds, even though these animals are protected by Supreme Court orders. They refused to let feeders out, even though they went out themselves. They threatened to cancel the leases of tenants who fed animals. They put out poison for birds and animals. In Kirti Nagar, built for middle level bureaucrats, one deputy secretary chased a 16 year old girl and her mother calling them whores – I will deal with him after the lockdown. One locked the gates at night after a feeder, who wanted to avoid human contact, had left to give the strays their first meal of the day. She spent the night on the road. As I write this column one guard has beaten an already paralysed dog in Saidham building in Kandivli. In Mandsaur the municipal employees, in full view of the public, beat a dog to death with lathis because his owner was suspected of corona.

One High Court judge in Delhi took his dog out for a walk every day. He refused to wear a mask. He came across a person feeding monkeys with a legal pass from the police. He threatened to slap him and was filmed. He then rang up the police commissioner and had the feeders pass cancelled. I had it restored. People who had lived as good neighbours for years made up stories about being bitten by the dogs their neighbours fed.  Some groups went and spat in front of animal owners. One temple priest in Ludhiana attacked an old lady with his idol’s “bhala” for feeding dogs near his temple. Another well-known priest, of a major government run temple in Guwahati, was caught selling donated cows to a Meghalaya butcher gang who came over the border.

A bus driver ran over a pregnant dog repeatedly till she was mashed into the ground and her babies in bits. Someone in Thane took a cricket bat and killed a mother of six puppies. One person threw his family dog from the 9th storey. People threw stones at street animal feeders. A man and his three sons newly moved into Betim, Goa, took lathis and beat up a local old couple that had been feeding the dogs for 30 years.

The police told me that every second call they received during this time was either people complaining about dog feeders, or from people who were being attacked for feeding dogs. I alone must have sorted out about 7000 or more quarrels. World War 3 has been raging for the last one month and, as time goes on, it will get much worse. One of the problems is that the police don’t want to take action on anyone except counseling them. They have been asked by the “higher” authorities to show zero crime figures.  Which means that this is a good time for all to indulge in crime. Those who have the courage can murder humans, those that have less courage can murder animals. You can steal and rape – but India has officially no crime.

And everyone can pick on women. 90% of this viciousness is aimed at women. They are the caretakers, they are the feeders. They are the ones who have embraced all life. And they are the ones who are being attacked by these low life, selfish people. An hour ago, I got a call from a man who had been sent a legal notice by us to desist from hounding a woman feeder in his building. The man called and said the filthiest things about the woman, saying she had put all their lives in danger by going out. When I remarked that, since he was not supposed to come out of his flat, how was his life in danger, he went into another paroxysm of rage about women in general.

None of these incidents has a single Muslim in it. All Hindus being mean to other Hindus. And those Hindus, who say the loudest prayers, hate Muslims in the most obvious ways and celebrate every Hindu festival with great pomp, were the meanest. When the Prime Minister asked us to light a diya on March 9th these were the people who smuggled in firecrackers and outdid each other in re-polluting the cities.

I have never been able to understand this latent violence in this sort of Hindu. Recently, I read a book called Impeachment of Man, written in 1945-46 by a woman called Dr. Maximiani Portas, a researcher into world religions who settled in India for 30 years and changed her name to Savitri Devi. She was active in the Independence struggle and met the Mahatma several times.

This is what she has written in the 40s.

“Most of these Hindus for whom the vegetarian diet means more than a mere social tradition – more than a part and parcel of the caste rules – and who willingly despise the Mohammedans and Christians for not being vegetarians - are no animal lovers at all. They are at the most cow lovers and that also only theoretically. They are generally the last people to keep any animals as pets, and if by chance they do, to keep them for long. They will easily continue discussing high flown philosophical ideas or broad national and international problems, which they have no power to solve, while some distressed stray cat mews at an audible distance. They will boast of their superiority over the meat eating peoples but eat their food unperturbed by the sight of the hungry dog looking up at them with longing eyes. You tell the man so and he answers the usual thing we have heard again and again “there are millions of starving children and you speak of dogs and cats.” This is better suited to a man centred creed – a Christian or a Mohammaden -, not one who professes to uphold the unity and sacredness of all life and whose vegetarianism is supposed to be a sign of that belief."

In my next piece I am going to quote what she has written about Hinduism and how people, who do not understand its glory, have misinterpreted it to become vicious. It should make us all embarrassed because it is so true.


Maneka Sanjay Gandhi


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*Proper wildlife rehabilitation is an extremely biologically and ecologically responsible attitude toward all living things.*