Thursday, June 26, 2008

Milk of Human Kindness

The other day I came upon a news clip about this villager in Orissa who rescued a bear cub which had strayed from the forest and took care of it. The cub has become a part of the family, treating the villager's 7-8 year old daugher as its sibling. It is quite tame and the villager, till now, has not used it for any commercial purposes.

The authorities (Forest Department, police) got to know of this, took the bear cub away and parked it in the zoo. They are also planning to arrest the villager for illegally keeping a wild animal in captivity. Which means, that his daughter, whose mother died sometime back, is going to become an orphan.

What sort of justice is this? Understood, that he did something illegal, but it was done with the best of intentions - the cub would have died if he had not looked after it. Being an uneducated villager living on the borders of a forest, he is unaware of laws that stop people from showing kindness to animals. And in doling out justice to the animal, a 7-year old child is being orphaned! Of course, another matter for debate is whether the bear will indeed have a better life in the confines of the zoo given the notorious facilities that Indian zoos have - at least, with the villager, it was living free, with open spaces around it.

While we definitely should care for animals and ensure that they remain in their natural habitat, sometimes we take things too far and become insensitive to human life. Maneka Gandhi, the most high profile animal lover in India, sometimes does push things too far (though I admire her work through People for Animals) - I wonder how she feels about all those people who were persecuted and presumably tortured by her ambitious husband during the emergency?


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