On the contrary

Who Exactly Is Cruel Here?

Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai  
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The obtuseness of the mob that hounded a boy who kicked a cat
Imagine you are a resident of a nice little housing society in Mumbai. One day, you come home early from work and see two teenagers playing around with a cat. One of them ruffles its mane tenderly, then lifts it a little and kicks it to send it flying away. What would you do?

You could shout at the kid. You might slap him a little if you were that sort of person. You could explain to him nicely about being kind to all beings and that what he did was an act of wanton cruelty. You could go to his home and tell his parents what he did. You could scream at them, or, if you are an enlightened person and they are not, explain the need of kindness towards all beings and that what their son did was an act of wanton cruelty. You could even advise them on how to discuss this with the boy. What you would probably not do is go to the police. What you would not do is lead a dharna against the boy the next day, collecting all the members of your housing society. You would not do that because a) it is a young boy doing this, b) it is the first time you saw the boy doing this, and c) for every act, there has to be a proportional response—just as you don’t give a Padma Shri to a kid who feeds a stray dog, it is bizarre to file a police case against one who kicks cat.

But it did happen. There was a boy who kicked a cat, and some animal rights activists and a self-righteous mob on Twitter and Facebook decided, based on a 19-second video, that he deserved public shaming, an FIR and an agitation that earned the headline: ‘Hundreds protest at cruel youth’s home in Mumbai’.

The teenager was stupid enough to upload the video on Facebook, but he did that because he is a boy. If adults use that video to identify him and, instead of having a quiet word with his parents, bay for a police case, make his mobile number and address public, lay siege to his home and force him to abscond like a rapist or murderer, then the sickness is not in the kid.

The disease that afflicts these adults is the myopic self-righteousness of the social networking world, giving them the power of outrage without responsibility.

Take the tens of thousands who were angry at the boy. Surely many of them were non-vegetarians. You wouldn’t have to travel too far from where this cat was kicked to find a poultry shop selling fresh chicken. There, from morning to night, you would see customers placing orders and a man slitting the throats of chickens and putting them in a drum to flail and bleed to death. There are hundreds of thousands of such shops all over India. Any of those murdered chickens would, given a choice, happily switch places with the cat. It is a no-brainer, what’s crueller.

But this daily chicken ‘genocide’ does not merit anger, a police case or a dharna because chicken (cooked well) is tasty, and, when it comes to dinner, no one minds an animal’s throat being slit. The boy kicked an animal once. Any non-vegetarian who forwarded that video was not only party to something crueller, but also a hypocrite.

Youth Organisation in Defence of Animals, the NGO that lodged the FIR against the boy, has made public its complaint letter. It begins thus:

‘It has come to our notice that—residing in—has been conducting acts that go against Section 11 [of the] The Prevention of Cruelty Act published in 1960. The Act clearly states that if any person ‘beats, kicks, over-rides, over-drives, over-loads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering or causes…’ IS SUBJECT TO PUNISHMENT.’ (All caps theirs)

But there is something the NGO didn’t mention—the punishment under that Act for first time offenders. Guess what it is? A minimum fine of Rs 10 and a maximum of Rs 50. Take that Rs 10 from the boy and leave him alone. Next time, pick on someone your own size and age.