When coronavirus cases began to decline in New Delhi, the residents of my area resumed their war over the handling of the animals in our midst.
The battle rages in the two years since I moved to Nizamuddin East, a leafy enclave that sits in the shadow of Humayun’s Tomb, the great Mughal mausoleum. In July, the conflict reached a new level of intensity without a solution.
On the one hand, there are the animal lovers who feed, vaccinate and sterilize the animals, and who think they should stay.
On the other hand, residents are fed up with being bitten, their gardens smashed by monkeys and awakened by the howling dogs. They believe offenders should go.
The dispute forced me to face awkward questions: what are my thoughts on animal rights? Is bite the price we pay for living together? Should we feed strays, even if it irritates us? And do monkeys carry rabies? (The answer is yes.)
The monkeys bait food from litter, while the more than 20 stray dogs have a handful of feeding places where they are provided with food. As I walk to the market, I regularly see Madala and Amber – my names for two particularly friendly dogs – my day.
But both species are guilty of biting people, and they can be devastating. The monkeys plunder gardens and defecate on porches, and the dogs can become territorial. Once, the monkeys threw bricks from the top of an apartment and slammed through the windshield of a parked car.
Many Nizamuddin East residents take a stick on their evening walk as protection against the dogs. Others complain that they are afraid to walk outside at night when the dogs are at their most active, engaging in various grass wars.
One dog bit three of my friends in the neighborhood. “It chased me a few other times before it was chained,” says one.
Yet the solution to the monkey and dog “threat”, as the WhatsApp group is called, is more complicated than it first appears. Compared to my home province of Ontario, Canada, where a dangerous dog can be “destroyed”, the laws in India offer animals more rights.
To remove monkeys in the past, residents could invoke the langurs – larger monkeys trained by a human handler to scare away the monkey bugs. However, the Ministry of Environmental Affairs ruled against it in 2013 and decided that the use of langur is prohibited because it is a protected species.
“It is by no means allowed to kill dogs. Our policy is to sterilize the dog population so that the numbers eventually drop,” said an official of the Animal Welfare Council of India, a statutory advisory body promoting animal welfare.
In the past month, the fighting has escalated, with one resident allegedly shooting at a dog three times. Separately, an attempt to bring in a professional monkey catcher was thwarted, apparently by animal lovers who called police.
The dispute is taking place across the country. “The population of dogs is quite high in India, it needs to be controlled, and it is a long process,” says a lawyer who works with animal welfare organizations. “There are a lot of dog lovers and dog haters, they are equally balanced.”
In June, a judge ruled in a New Delhi dispute involving a doctor to stop someone from feeding dogs outside her property. (The case was resolved in a friendly case.)
In sy pro-dog judgment, the Honorable Judge, JR Midha, said that the feeding of animals was traditionally considered a good deed, with reference to dogs in the Vedas, sacred Hindu texts.
He further stated that dogs’ have the right to food and that citizens have the right to feed community dogs, but in exercising this right must be careful and cautious to ensure that it does not infringe on the rights of others or cause any harm. ”.
The verdict has been applauded by animal lovers across the country, but it is unlikely to help clarify the situation on the ground.
I do not blame the environment for not reaching consensus on living with other species. Mankind has a terrible record when it comes to protecting wildlife.
The WhatsApp bickering over the dogs and monkeys seems useless, but I take it every day over the SOS for hospital beds, oxygen and medication we went through during the pandemic. I can not help but see it as a sign of healing in Nizamuddin East.