Crimes in Confinement: Lockdown phase showed rise in crimes against animals in Sikkim
With COVID-19 ensuring that lockdowns were imposed nationwide ensuing spring 2020, the nation embraced its own implemented under the Disaster Management Act 2005, in order to necessitate social distancing, also termed as ‘social vaccine; by Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. Many activities came to a standstill, employees started opting for work from home or roster system as introduced in state government offices.
The pandemic had an impact not only on the economy but in the homes of people. Social atrocities in the form of violence against women, child abuse, cybercrime, animal abuse resurfaced. In the wake of India’s rising cases on women and child violence, where did Sikkim stand?
Senior Inspector Junee Rai apprises about the cases under the Pakyong Police Station’s jurisdiction. She expresses delight over the reduced cases of FIR in the pandemic phase and reports that they have witnessed a drop of 50% drop in the crime rate (including women related) compared to last year’s. “Not many grave cases have been filed; it has been limited to a few alcohol-related cases leading to household quarrels. Also, women police personnel comprises almost one-third of the total strength in the police station,” she adds.
Women safety has been much debated especially in the context of nighttime travel. The state government now offers free rides for women if they work late to ensure safety. Yet doubt looms large over their safety at home. From sexual abuse to domestic violence, the silence around issues at home remains the biggest problem to tackle, making it difficult to pin down a figure on the number of women suffering.
Child abuse cases are another grave concern that the modern society witnesses and taking stock of one of the districts, Wendy Lepcha, a District Child Project Officer (North) mentioned that two POCSO cases reported during the lockdown phase.
She informed of the unique measures taken in the North district, such as constituting a Village Child Protection Committee (VCPC) under the Panchayat president who will serve as its chairperson, spread across 4 blocks of North Sikkim under the overall supervision of DCPO.
Apart from this, a Village Parliament is being organised (enthused by Sikkim’s recent participation in National Inclusive Child Parliament) where children are motivated to deliberate upon the factors that affect them, issues affecting them at a micro level, seen as a combative strategy to address any form of exploitation and encouragement to reach out if necessary.
Animal abuse is another critical issue that Sikkim’s society needs to acknowledge seriously. Under Article 21, all humans in India are allowed the right to life and personal liberty. But what about animals? It may surprise many to know that the Supreme Court in 2014 decided in the vase of Animal Welfare Board of India v. Nagaraja and Ors, that:
Every species has a right to life and security, subject to the law of the land, which includes depriving its life, out of human necessity. Article 21 of the Constitution, while safeguarding the rights of humans, protects life and the word “life” has been given an expanded definition and any disturbance from the basic environment which includes all forms of life, including animal life, which are necessary for human life, fall within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution. So far as animals are concerned, in our view “life” means something more than mere survival or existence or instrumental value for human beings, but to lead a life with some intrinsic worth, honor and dignity.”
A photo of a pet dog draped in a blanket made the rounds on social media around September 10th 2020. The dog was shown to have been severely beaten up and tortured in what seemed a case of bestiality as doubted by the postmortem report. This incident shows a clear violation of the law on both moral and statutory grounds.
Netizens voiced their concern and were vociferous on their belief that the accused deserved capital punishment under a court of law.
Another case in West Sikkim where a dog was shot down by a person in what might’ve been a fallacious show of strength. Yet another incident in Rongyek where a dog’s life was traded over a neighbourhood rivalry. While the Yulin festival is not celebrated in Sikkim, this wasn’t any less vile.
Deepti Tamang, a member of Guardians, an animal welfare organisation, informed there has been a rise in hit and run cases, which she doubts could be as a result of a post-lockdown rush of vehicles. She notified SC about the measures their organisation has taken such as educating drivers, and their special focus has been on strays and unwanted pets making rounds in the streets as they are more susceptible to injury or infection; on-spot treatment of injured animals is done in collaboration with Sikkim Anti-Rabies and Animal Health (SARAH).
This is only touching the surface. What the figures really are, at least officially that is, won't go public until the next NCRB data arrives. Nevertheless, pandemic or not, crime is a part of society and it won't go away. The incidents mentioned above are just a summary of nine months in isolation - imagine what happens when the world goes back outside?