he Internet is bursting with videos about human love for animals. There are scores of thousands of videos of human-animal bonding, each getting millions of views and likes. Millions sharing the joy of an individual or family about their care of pet or stray animals is, indeed, a thing to celebrate about. People’s co-habitation as a family with tigers and polar bears not only makes compelling filming and viewing, but sets you thinking about human nature.
Time was when we knew only saints exuded such peace that could attract poisonous snakes and wild animals to hang around them. Today, we see ordinary people in India and other countries doing heroic things for animals effortlessly on a daily basis, giving us hope about a turn-around in our atmosphere. The stories are being picked up by the mainstream media, which has a very important part to play in sensitizing the masses to the norms of co-existence.
In sharp contrast, however, the mainstream media as well as the intellectual and political elite, including bureaucrats, magistrates and judges, are downright insensitive to the atrocities committed upon the cow and siblings in India. The crime of smuggling of cattle is rampant in the country as is their illegal slaughter, and the unspeakable pain to which they are subjected.
As an animal welfare activist from October 2012 to August 2019, who stood and did actual rescues on the road for months in a row, and was involved in work at cow shelters, besides drafting legal petitions on the subject from the lower to the highest courts, I found the intellectual disregard for the crime shocking.
The cops, when not partners in the crimes and on the pay rolls of the cattle mafia, take it for granted that the crime cannot be stopped in the absence of government-supported cattle sanctuaries. Magistrates and judges, except in rare cases, do not think it is a serious crime and dismiss the petitions of the rescuers with contempt. Fellow journalists know nothing about the crime. For them, the cow is a Hindu animal, not worthy of reporting unless violence is committed against humans in its name.
The religious and spiritual leaders are also largely indifferent to the issue. For proof, one only need check with the Border Security Force (BSF), which contacted many of them to provide food, shelter and medicines to the cattle rescued at the Indian Bangladesh border along West Bengal and Assam. They washed their hands off the issue. Only one spiritual outfit, Dhyan Foundation (DF), led by Yogi Ashwini, stepped forward. In fact, the Foundation encouraged the BSF to rescue as many cattle as possible while it gave a commitment to rehabilitate all. True to its word, it has taken charge of each and every cattle saved by the BSF since the middle of 2019.
Thanks to the support of this yog outfit, smuggling across India’s north-east border with Bangladesh has come down by 90 percent. Today, there are an astounding 50,000 unproductive cattle in 40 shelters across India, run or supported by DF. This means a monthly expense of crores of rupees on their care. The entire money comes from volunteers of the Foundation and kind private donors outside.
Such is the motivation provided by Yogi Ashwini, a strict adherent of the guru-shishya parampara, that yog and jeev daya (compassion for animals) have become synonymous as far as his followers are concerned. The volunteers of DF all over the world are incessantly rescuing, feeding and rehabilitating animals, including cows, buffaloes, camels, overworked and under-fed buffalo and cow bulls, the abandoned male calves, stray and starving/injured/ill dogs, cats, horses, monkeys, and lambs (in Australia, where they are brutalized). Preventing cruelty to animals anywhere they see it is a part of their daily practices, one that wins them great attention from their guru.
By all accounts, it is a unique contribution of Yogi Ashwini’s, not just to the subject of yog and the lives of the followers, but to the pool of compassion in the world. Who knows, but the Hundredth Monkey Syndrome might come into play as a result of the sensitive actions of the Foundation. In such service alone is there hope to dent the intellectual insensitivity towards cattle in India, who are worthy of the same love, care and attention as all those “Beautiful People” (to quote the title of the 1974 classic documentary about the wildlife in Africa) we see bonding with the two-legged animals on YouTube, bringing us immense joy.
(The author is a Delhi-based journalist)