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Diwali: A festival of lights for us, and darkness for animals

Salma Rehman | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 8:27 IST

"Pakad saale ko, jaldi jaldi, ghusa peechey!"

(Catch that rascal and shove it up behind him.)

I came across a bunch of teens trying to catch a young dog by his tail. It was Diwali night, about three years ago. I was walking down the street to attend a celebration at friend's place in Rajouri garden when I heard a dog screeching. After a moment, I realised what was happening. The boys, who were probably aged 15-17, had grabbed the dog from behind and were trying inserting a cylindrical bomb in his anus.

Disgusted and terrified, I shouted at them. Startled, the boys released the dog which ran as fast as it could to save its life. When I asked the teens what they were up to, they just replied casually: "Kya didi? kutta hai." (What sister? It's just a dog)

Dog with message

File Photo

No, it's not just a dog... or pig, or donkey, or animal. It's a life. And no one has the right to abuse it.

Diwali, a festival of lights that puts us all in a mode of celebration, a mode which is too loud to see or hear anyone suffering around us. We have had heard of cruelties against animals but these acts escalate to another level on festivals. We might not have paid attention to it earlier but let's take a moment and acknowledge the horrors animals have to survive during festivities.

Stray animals, strayed humans

Have you ever wondered where most of the stray dogs, considered a general nuisance, vanish on Diwali night? Scared, restless and stressed because of constant loud noises, dogs try to flee far from crackers. A scientific explanation to this is that dogs hear much higher frequency sounds than humans do and have a different acoustic perception of the world. Sounds that seem loud to humans often emit high frequency tones that can scare dogs. In fact, a large number of them meet with accidents, unable to perceive the source of the sound.

I have seen people carry out heinous acts like tying crackers to the tails of dogs and cows, and the one which I encountered on Diwali remains my worst nightmare.

Petting and neglecting

What if I bring this discussion right into your homes where your pets roam around freely?

Have you noticed the behaviour of your pets this auspicious season? If you see them showing signs like shaking, trembling, excessive barking and trying to hide or getting out of the house, you should understand that they are traumatised. In fact, a lot pets also get disoriented, run out, and forget their way home. Hence the number of 'Missing Dog/Cat' posts you've seen lately.

Also, the probability of pet animals sniffing and stepping on these burnt crackers and getting injured is high. Some eat the remnants of the firecrackers and suffer from digestion problems.

The most common effects of the noise on animals are aggressive behaviour, fear, loss of appetite, salivation and defecation inside the house.

The sky is yours, birdie. Not on Diwali

File Photo

File Photo

We might not have given enough attention to these beings which sleep calmly in trees as the sun goes down. For birds, Diwali is their worst nightmare. There are incidents of people shooting rockets into trees, eventually hurting or killing the birds. A silent killer for the bird is also the lingering smoke in the air that causes suffocation in birds. Dead birds are often spotted on the streets after Diwali.


Photo: WWF India

And what would you say after knowing about a brutal ritual where owls are sacrificed on Diwali to please Goddess Laxmi? As if everything else was not enough.

But there's a solution

On Diwali, along with sharing gifts, let's share some compassion with animals. We can take inspiration from villages of Vettangudi and Kollukudi patti in Tamil Nadu, who have given up crackers on the festival, to provide an amiable environment to the migratory birds at Vettangudi Bird Sanctuary situated close to the villages.

Consideration could be made by cutting down on crackers, which will ultimately reduce the noise and air pollution. We also need to pass on the concerns to our children who are quick at learning by example.

Also, animal abusers should be brought to justice. On that note, let's celebrate a Diwali which is happy for all!

First published: 10 November 2015, 3:43 IST