(This article examines the sequence of events of the last month as unfolding in Kashmir, with publicly available information)
Kashmir, is a know ‘dog killing’ state with poisoning being the ‘favored method. The Animal Birth Control (ABC/ Spay-neuter) program has been mired in controversy from the beginning and the complicated situation has been reported on these pages, including a request by the Govt to fund the ABC program to make dog pounds at a cost of INR 950 crores (US$ 200 Million)! But more than that the real contention lies at the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) ‘managing’ an tripartite MOU bypassing any NGOs/AWOs against the very principles of the Animal Birth Control (Dog Rules, 2001) AND getting a veterinary college to carry out ABC where there are no safeguards for dogs from experimentation and abuse.
On May 3, 2012 the ABC program took off amid much fanfare by the SMC and AWBI and some others participating in it, but has been viewed with suspicion by a legion of animal lovers for availability for abuse and to provide cover.
On 24 May 2012 Dr Shabir Ahmed (a government servant) wrote a letter titled “AFTER DRAWING CRORES ON ABC – SMC NOW POISONING DOGS” and addressed to (1) The Chief Minister, Govt of J&K (2) Ms Maneka Gandhi, Member of Parliament & (3) The Chairman AWBI. Funnily the AWBI which has the MOU with SMC and a party to the ABC program chose not to respond except through a single member who rubbished the charges in subsequent communication as ‘private poisoning’, ‘fabrication’ and ‘morphed’.
The letter said “At the orders of the J&K High Court the SMC has invested heavily in the sterilization project of Srinagar’s stray dogs. It has diverted money meant for city development under the pretext of Court orders that prohibit killing of dogs by poisoning… even though the sterilization has started the SMC is carrying out a massive dog poisoning drive….. The Commissioner SMC DR G.N Qasba is personally monitoring the killings and has formed a special team to carry out the killings. The poison is given at the night time and the dead bodies are removed at sunrise at about 5 in the morning. I have been personally witnessing this past three weeks running.
“If the SMC had to resort to killing of dogs as it is doing now why did the government enact the farce of the diversion and draining of funds and why is the AWBI party to the killings… A dog on whose sterilization your government first withdrew and booked crores is now being killed with a Rupee five poison pill despite the High Court Orders and loud claims to the contrary. I as a citizen of this state appeal to your conscience to have the corrupt mad men behind this farce investigated and booked… I also appeal to the Animal Welfare Board of India to scrap the so called sterilization project of Kashmir as the corrupt administrators have tasted blood even in this public initiative and while drawing funds for birth control of dogs are killing them in cold blood for ill gotten personal gains.”
Dr Qasba, Commissioner SMC in his response on 25 May 2012 dismissed this as “… a mischief of some vested interest who would not like to see the Jammu & Kashmir emerging as a front line state in the country with a credible success story in ABC…” The same day Jasjit Purewal, AWBI Board Member dismissed Dr Shabir written statement as “Dr Shabir Ahmad claiming that 10,000 dogs have been poisoned by the Commissioner this year. I was in Srinagar just a week ago. While there have been stories of poisoning by private people I know for a fact that this mail is a complete lie since I was there and have today checked with my informants in Srinagar. More importantly the gentleman who wrote me a separate mail claims to be a government servant and hence used a pseudonym.”
A serious allegation is dismissed by labeling the whistle-blower anonymous. Surely a government servant could not be writing that easily to the head of the government of Jammu & Kashmir with the entire bureaucracy and police machinery at his disposal under a completely false or untraceable identity?
On 25, 2012 Dr Shabir Ahmad addressing Ms Purewal wrote “I was in SKUAST the day you yourself admitted in presence of all the surgeons at the dog pound that a truck load of poisoned dogs was being carried towards Shalimar…. Strychnine is not privately available Madam and it is only the SMC which has huge unused stocks of it… In case I am lying the photographs will tell their own truth.”
There is a serious allegation since Dr Ahmad said that he & Ms Purewal and a team of surgeons were all present when this exchange took place. It can’t be that easy to lie about multiple eye-witnesses and it proves that Dr Shabir is a real person and known to AWBI and SMC officeholders even though his name may not be real.
But more disturbing is a public mail by Carin Fischer on 25 May 2012 following Dr Sabir’s mail. Carin Fischer lives in Srinagar and had earlier greatly supported the AWBI-SMC-SKUAST ABC program since she felt (rightly) that ABC in Kashmir is essential.
In the mail Carin reported “I was the one who reported the Municipal Corporation Truck full of dead dogs (a huge truck load) last week when I intercepted it while returning from SKUAST where the puppy I rescued was being treated. I had no camera.. The next day some vet students at SKUAST told me that they saw many trucks like this every morning. Friends from other parts of the city also tell me the same. I have also been warned not to go after the authorities….. I think dogs are being killed and with numbers declining the SMC might say it’s because of the sterilization.
“I was in complete shock when I saw the truck and wished I could have taken pictures that day. Living here and with Qasba already having turned hostile for no reason at all, I don’ know what to do and fear the authorities might go after me. I am still willing to help but don’t know anymore how.”
The final communication on this saga comes from Dr Shabir Ahmad on May 29.
He says in his mail widely available “….I therefore, request you to kindly examine the photos and detail given and close the matter lest I be harmed. As you will see I have taken the photos from close angle… The first photo is of April 25, (Time 09:52:15 AM) showing SMC employees loading a truck full of dead dogs after poisoning them at 10 in the night before. Can the private poisoning be done on this scale?
“The second photo is detailing the truck no after it moved with the dogs. The location is near Hazratbal in Srinagar. Around 12000 dead dogs, killed since April 15th are now lying freshly buried at a place on the National Highway 18 Kms from Srinagar at a place called Galandar at Pampore. The carcasses are buried 14 feet deep with excavators of the SMC. The compound walls of this place are about 18 feet high and cannot be scaled. The main gate remains locked. If a team were to be deputed to dig and unearth the burial spot no less than 12000 freshly buried dogs would be found.But then all you will keep doing is question my credibility than visit the burial site and see things for yourself…”
The question remains why is the ABC program in Kashmir as clandestine as it is contentious? And why is the AWBI not above board in addressing these concerns as it has entered into a questionable MOU by-passing any NGOs/AWOs against the very principles of the Animal Birth Control (Dog Rules, 2001)
Here is a man giving pictures and details of killed dogs and giving a specific no (12,000!) of dogs killed & buried in a specific location and none of the parties of the MOU choose to act on it or investigate it? Or is it because AWBI willfully surrendered that right when it signed the MOU knowing that its ability to exercise its limited authority is even more limited in Jammu & Kashmir?