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“A murder so foul…”

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A frail dishevelled desperate looking woman was wandering on the streets of a village. She seemed to be dumb and was frantically gesturing asking for food from passers-by. Her desperation seemed to amuse people around as they started teasing her and making fun of her. Frustrated she started throwing her arms around with the intent to ward off people troubling her. Villager’s amusement turned into ire and they started physically hitting her. One thing led to another, tempers flared and an enraged villager caught hold of a pesticide bottle and forcefully shoved it down the throat of the poor woman. She gulped some and the rest splashed all over her as she fell down.

As she lay on the ground, her limbs gone weak because of hunger, thirst, heat but yet, mustering the last bit of energy inside her, she continued her gestures lying on the floor, howling now, her teary eyes pleading and asking for help. There was a reason behind her desperation. It was for the little being that was nurturing inside her womb, which people could not see and even if they could, one wonders if it would have made them behave any differently. The folks around her had calmed down by then but continued to watch her in disgust, completely deaf to the dumb woman wails as she started writhing in pain with the pesticide starting to affect her internally.

As the sun set, the woman had become motionless, so people started dispersing and soon she lay all alone, unconscious in the middle of an open area as darkness engulfed the village. At some moment during the night, she passed away, killed by the barbaric and inhuman act of her own species…man’kind’!

This was a murder so foul that it will shake your conscience. However, if I were to tell you now, to replace the pregnant woman with a pregnant female elephant, you would understand exactly what I am talking about and perhaps your feelings would be further enraged. While the above story of a pregnant woman is imaginary, what this female elephant went through was similar but much more brutal. She was fed a pineapple stuffed with crackers which exploded in her mouth, breaking her jaw and injuring her badly making it impossible for her to eat. It will break your heart to know that while she frantically roamed around the village in excruciating pain, yet she did not hurt even a single human, nor trample houses and property. She went around in that state for twenty days, hungry and helpless, but no one came to her rescue.

Eventually, she went to the middle of the pond and like a great saint on her final leg of her life, she took a “Jal Samaadhi” (meditative position in water). By the time the forest officials came, it was too late. So, who were the more evolved beings here…humans who maimed and tortured her or the elephant who could have easily destroyed the village and killed scores of people but instead pardoned them and quietly sacrificed her own, as well as, her yet to be born calf’s life. The inhuman treatment meted to her by the people was in stark contrast to the goodness showered on them by the elephant. It was this divinity shown by the elephant, which brought about a national catharsis. This is a murder so foul and a sacrifice so sublime, that it would shake the conscience of the whole humanity and indeed, it has led to a national outrage. This is the ‘Nirbhaya moment’ of the animal species.

The ‘Nirbhaya elephant’ rose above humanity and taught us a lesson on love and forgiveness through her supreme sacrifice. We should not allow her sacrifice to go waste. Even if her perpetrators were caught, the maximum punishment they will get would actually be travesty of real justice, especially in this case. At this instance, one is reminded of an incident from Mahabharata when Krishna had to coax Arjuna to kill an unarmed Karna explaining that if one breaks a law for the larger good of humanity, it is termed as good deed. Therefore, could this be that ‘Krishna moment’ for India. Now that the nation has been outraged by the wrong committed, can Krishna (Parliament) rise above the law and empower Arjuna (Judiciary/law enforcement) by passing an amendment stating that if the murder, especially of an endangered animal, is so foul that is shakes the human conscience, the courts at their own  discretion, may give capital punishment to the criminals. In future, this will also act as a strong deterrent for cruelty against animals that is so rampant in India. It is moments like these, when nations get an opportunity to rise above the law, so it can take it to an even higher pedestal and set new benchmarks. Can India seize this moment.

Secondly, the nation is going through a collective catharsis because of this incidence. This is an opportunity for us Indians, to invoke our ancient cultural heritage of worshiping nature and treating all beings on an equal footing. This is the moment to introspect and contemplate on eradicating all those cultural practises, which celebrate or take pride in either torturing or killing animals. This is true for all religions and communities. Unfortunately, the leaders of the communities/religions are much more orthodox and even radical than the common people, so it will have to be the collective will of the common people, which will have to stand up to the resistance of their community/religious leaders and eliminate all such cultural practises.

Just as the US police went down and ‘took a knee’ in the memory of George Floyd, victim of racial discrimination, so this elephant’s sacrifice should be India’s moment of going down to ‘take a knee’ in front of nature, in general, and animal ‘kind’, in particular.

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