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Thursday, August 6, 2020

India was projected as a country of snake-charmers and Western World compassionate

When India gained independence from Britain on August 15 1947, the majority of Anglo-Indians had either left or would leave soon after.  By that time, much damage had been done.  Indian wealth had been looted and more importantly, India was presented in a very negative manner – it was projected to be a land of poor, illiterates, uncultured and snake-charmers. Yet some people would still hail the British rule and the colonial benefits !

Last year during an Election campaign, taking a swipe at Congress' general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi, Prime Minister  Mr Narendra Modi accused Congress of portraying India as a 'land of snake charmers' even after decades of independence. "There was a time when Congress used to please foreign guest throw snake charming. The whole world used to believe that India is only the land of snake charmers and magic. Our image is still being projected as such even after decades," Prime Minister said while addressing an election rally.  This came  a day after Priyanka Gandhi had an unusual encounter while on the campaign trail in the Rae Bareli constituency of Uttar Pradesh where she met snake charmers and even petted and held snakes in her hands.

Sometime back, BBC in a tweet asked : ‘Should India erase its snake charming culture to embrace modernity?’.  BBC Pop Up is a travelling bureau that films stories across India. One of its promotional videos some time ago contained footage of a snake charmer, prompting criticism from social media users who felt that the image of men hypnotising snakes no longer symbolised India. So the channel set about investigating whether snake charmers offend India's cultural identity and whether that branding holds the country back. It also visited a village of snake charmers in Delhi to find out how they were coping since the practice was banned on wildlife protection grounds a decade ago. The conversation that followed should have pertainted to the fate of India's snake charmers. But BBC Pop Up's promotional tweet led to talk about racist mindsets instead, eventually forcing an apology.

There are many International Agencies who often rake up non-issues in trying to project India as barbaric.  Once in a while, a famous foreigner would tweet and start a campaign in saving an elephant or some other animal – and funds would flow – more importantly the adverse image of the Nation.  PETA, though instituted for a good cause, often courts controversy – mainly because it targets only Hindu beliefs and also in voicing concern only here – but soft-pedalling grave issues in Western Countries.

          The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, an animal rights organisation, has approached the Delhi High Court seeking directions to impose an immediate ban on the use of animals in circuses across the country. PETA, in its petition, said that the use of weapons and other abuse of animals is inherent, rampant, and widespread in circuses.  Highlighting the risk that circuses pose in spreading zoonotic diseases, which can spread from animals to humans, PETA sought directions to the Central government to ban the use of animals in circuses by notifying the Performing Animals (Registration) (Amendment) Rules, 2018. Opposing speciesism, the plea said that the animals are not ours to use for entertainment  "The world is already battling a deadly animal-borne disease - it's high time to stop circuses from dragging stressed and potentially sick animals from town to town," PETA India senior legal counsel said but one wonders, whether PETA knows that there exists Zoos in foreign countries as well and do read the newsitem of their treatment of animals.


The Indian chapter of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an animal rights group, is known for its extravagant and outspoken campaigns which have often left people scratching their heads.  Recently,  PETA struck the wrong note by linking the festival of Raksha Bandha with cow protection. In its campaign "This Raksha Bandhan, protect cows too", the animal rights organisation urged people to “go leather-free” this Raksha Bandhan.  Ahead of the Raksha Bandhan festival, PETA India erected billboards in six cities namely Ahmedabad, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kanpur, Patna, and Pune, featuring a cow proclaiming, “Protect Me- Go Leather-Free”.  Netizens questioned the rationale behind hinging cow protection with Raksha Bandhan when rakhis are seldom made using leather. A user wrote, “Why pick a festival which has nothing to do with killing of any animal.”  …. But go silent when lambs, cattle, camels are butchered !

This news is for the eyes and ears of PETA ~  a  pair of 'inseperable' African lions were put down together at their home in the Los Angeles Zoo so neither would have to live alone, officials said. Hubert and Kalisa were both 21 years old and had far outlived their normal lifespan of 14 to 17 years. But were in 'declining health', the zoo said, and age-related illnesses had 'diminished their quality of life'.

'The Los Angeles Zoo is sad to announce the death of our African lion pair, Hubert and Kalisa,' zoo officials said in a statement Thursday.  'Animal care and health staff made the difficult decision to humanely euthanize the 21-year-old companions.'  As they had remained a pair and inseparable, they were put down together !!!  The couple were in 'declining health', the zoo said, and age-related illnesses had 'diminished their quality of life' - what is the determinant of ‘quality’ and who decides that ?  

Hubert and Kalisa's pairing started at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, where the lions met before being moved to LA in 2014. While Hubert fathered 10 cubs, he never had any with Kalisa. Hubert was born Feb. 7, 1999 at the Lincoln Park Zoo, while Kalisa was born Dec. 26, 1998 at Woodland Park.   Animal programs director Beth Schaefer told the LA Times that the lions were 'charismatic both together as partners and separately.' 'Their undivided attention was always on the other as they rested together, cuddled and nuzzled often.'

African lions can sleep as many as 20 hours per day to conserve their energy, according to the zoo's website. But this permanent sleep is not what they ever would have wished for.  Imagine the hue and cry, PETA, animal activists, Sickularists and twitteratis would have made, if the same had happened in India – more so, in a South Indian town, having some allegiance to a Mutt. Then animal lives would have been precious ~ now the Zoo is right in determining that they lost their quality and have no place to live any longer.

Strange are the ways of people !  ~ it is the image that matters most. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

6th Aug 2020.

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