Estd. 2006
The great Indian hornbill that was murdered

Dr Aniruddha Babar

In his book, The Deeper Minds of all Ages, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote -

“The deeper minds of all ages have had pity for animals, because they suffer from life and have not the power to turn the sting of the suffering against themselves, and understand their being metaphysically. The sight of the blind suffering is the spring of the deepest emotion.”

It is shocking and surprising to see how brutal and low a man can get in their life. The dark shadow of a Murder of the Great Indian Hornbill is bound to haunt murderers, their supporters and silent witness to the murder (those heartless villagers who were present at the scene of crime) whole their life but also to a people like me who became disturbed and devastated for a moment seeing the naked celebration of insane cruelty to a beautiful Bird.

The video of brutal abuse of the Great Indian Hornbill Bird (designated as endangered bird), who is not only a pride of Nagaland but also the entire India, shaken the conscience of humanity. In video, as I have seen, he was painfully stretched, hold tight, abused and brutally beaten. If you can see the video, you may observe the pain and suffering Hornbill was going through in his torturous ordeal in the hands of his murderers. That entire gory scene, compel me to inquire into the mind of all those people who were actively participating in the CRIME. What could have been their motivation to brutally assault a helpless Bird? What made them so violent? Did Bird assault them? Did bird arrive in their homes, their fields with Guns and Swords? Did Bird abuse them or their family members with swear words? What instigated their anger?

My friend in Germany, who is a noted Psychiatrist once told me that the acts of cruelty to animals are symptomatic of a deep mental disturbance. Research in psychology and criminology shows that people who commit acts of cruelty to animals do not stop there—many of them move on to their fellow humans. Murderers often start out by killing and torturing animals as kids and continue their gory fascination for the same as adults. She was trying to discover the seeds of potential human killers in the actions of Men and Women who tortured animals to death.   

Can we all recall the murder of pregnant Elephant after she ate pineapple filled with firecrackers? In 2018, a horrific tale of animal abuse surfaced when it was reported that 4 men allegedly gang-raped a male dog in Mumbai. Also, an animal abuse video went viral after a group of men were seen torturing a dolphin on camera. On July 29, 2018 a news surfaced as to the rape of pregnant goat by 8 men in Haryana, on May 18, 2018 Hyderabad was shocked to read that 100 stray dogs were culled and dumped in a forest area in Kongara, on January 12, 2018 Eleven monkeys were found killed near the National Highway-8, about 66 km from Jaipur, in Rajasthan. Forest officials said they were beaten with sticks and then splashed with an abrasive chemical, probably an acid. There have been many incidents of animal cruelty that came on surface in the media.

The first question that comes instinctively is why would someone inflict such pain on a helpless and harmless animal? A study on childhood experiences of psychopaths by Marshall and Cooke revealed two distinct factors — familial and societal — both of which were highly correlated with adult psychopathy scores. These results indicate a connection between the experiences psychopaths have in childhood, and their influence on the adult outcome.

Robert Agnew explained in the article “The Causes of Animal Abuse — A Social-Psychological Analysis”, published in the journal Theoretical Criminology, that the first cause is ignorance about the abusive consequences of our behaviour for animals, the belief that abuse is justified, and the perception that abuse is personally beneficial. Second, a set of factors including individual traits, like empathy, the individual's socialisation, the individual's level of strain or stress, level of social control, the nature of the animal under consideration, and the individual's social position, together determine the behaviour of the abuser.

Other studies have explained the third — and worst — reason. They enjoy hurting things — because it makes them feel good and powerful. They simply enjoy pain and violence. This group of people suffer from serious psychological problems that will probably not go away on their own. Psychological intervention is essential for them.  

Hitting, shouting or incurring any type of violence against an animal without feeling is a very worrying trait in a person. Also, there have been cases wherein the observations made as to the dual nature of personalities of perpetrators, for e.g. a person who is very kind, caring and good to pet animals, shown visible tendency to become abusive, violent and ultra-cruel towards street and wild animals. The tendency to enact cruelty toward animals is closely linked to a mental illness. Such psychological pathologies seriously affect a person's ability to feel and reason. Such people do not stop with animal abuse, but escalate their abusive behavior towards closely related people for e.g. Lovers, Parents, Friends, Husband/Wife/Children etc. There have been observations made that domestic violence or relationship abuse is closely related to intentional animal abuse tendency in Men.

The accused of murder of the Great Indian Hornbill have been arrested by the Police and I am sure necessary action will be taken against them under relevant sections of various laws. Law will make sure that they will not escape the punishment. However, what I personally feel is that, the culprits should be made to undergo mental health evaluation as well. Most of the time we don’t realize that certain people in the society with violent tendencies are actually “living Time Bombs”. Such people needs to be immediately identified and put through a rigorous mental evaluation and curative medical procedures. Police administration can play a big role in this. Simply by observing the nature of crime, extent of involvement of the accused, nature of actions involved, emotions of accused towards the crime he/she committed, gravity of cruelty involved, visibility of abnormal tendencies, authorities can very well construct psychological picture of perpetrators which can help them to decide as to whether the perpetrators also need to be sent for mental evaluation. Even, after the court convicted the culprits charged in offences related to animal abuse and cruelty, they should also be regularly put under the supervision of highly trained mental health expert so that the ‘violent tendencies and their uncontrolled expressions’ can be dealt with the help of modern medical science.

I think we have to understand certain things very clearly. Animals have emotions and they deserve right to life as much as we all do. Here, there is no reason to challenge the liberty of Man as to what to eat and what not to eat, but as there is an international consensus- even the animals and birds reared for food must be killed by inflicting as little pain as possible. The point is- treat Animals and Birds with human sensitivity whether they are systematically reared for food or they are wild creatures.

The law of land must be respected and followed unquestionably. We have Wild Life Protection Act 1972, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, Sec.  428 & 429 of Indian Penal Code-which provides for punishment of all acts of cruelty such as killing, poisoning maiming or rendering useless of animals. These legislations have been enacted to obviate unnecessary pain and suffering of animals and similar legislations continue to be enacted according to changing circumstances. Also, we have to understand that all these legislations are very much applicable to Nagaland and they do exist here to protect Animals and Birds. Moreover, The Constitution of India makes it the “duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for all living creatures.” This constitutional duty of animal protection is supplemented by the Directive Principle of State Policy under Article 48A which state that: The state shall endeavor to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country.

We have a mature legal system which reflects the collective conscience not only of all of us, but the entire world. However, what we need is a mature human mind. Sensitive and Sensible human being. Mankind has been around on this planet for more than Five to Seven Million years, and it is surprising that we have not learned anything. I have no hopes from the people of the past but since I believe in the Law of Evolution- I have firm conviction that the future generations will be better than us.

Let us learn to live like human being and respect all sentient beings.   

(Dr Aniruddha Babar is a Professor of Political Science & International Law at Tetso College in Dimapur, Nagaland)  

June 27 2022