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OP-ED: Canis canem edit

  • Published at 09:46 pm September 20th, 2020
street dogs
No harm intended MEHEDI HASAN

All dogs want from us is a bit of compassion

Our government sure does love coming up with solutions looking for problems.

It’s the sort of astounding foresight that paved the way for pornographic websites getting blocked earlier last year or last month’s city-wide curfew meant to curb the spread of Covid-19 that ran from … 10pm to 5am. A high-traffic hour in Dhaka if nothing else.

And it’s the same foresight with which the fine administrative powers of Dhaka South City Corporation have seen fit that now would be a good time to do something about all the stray dogs in their part of town.

Causing massive inconveniences such as hogging up the sidewalks -- preventing both motorcyclists and law enforcement alike from circumventing the traffic -- and giving the majority of citizens a little scare when confronted by the cursed canines, the “relocation” is surely part of the DSCC mayor’s earlier promise to turn Dhaka into a “well-governed city.”

Sarcasm aside, there is very little I can say that would add to all the tireless efforts being made by actual animal rights activists against this abhorrent new directive by the DSCC. I wish I could join them in their activism, but the reality of the situation is that there is still a global pandemic raging outside and I have an elderly parent whose well-being I need to consider.

But I have no doubts that the DSCC will capitulate and that reason will ultimately prevail, at least when it comes to the administration.

However, I do have doubts regarding whether common decency among the people will ever come to pass.

It has been nothing short of disappointing to see so many voices chime up in social media deriding the animal rights activists for their hard work, resorting to good ol’ whataboutery and drumming up offensively tired arguments such as “they’re all in it for the money.” 

Because, as we all know, dogs are infamous for their strong grasp of the concept of unchecked capitalism and have many off-shore banks around the world where they have their secret canine wealth stashed.

I swear that I’m done. As living creatures, dogs find themselves in an unenviable position in our society: Inconsequential enough in demeanour to be left alone, but big enough in size to be considered a threat by the majority.

Add to that the fact that they have no apparent commodifiable value as domesticated animals (neither their flesh nor milk is considered consumable) and the public’s general indifference and borderline vilification starts to make some sense.

But dogs exist because of humans, and I do not mean that in a loose philosophical sense.

Dogs exist because of an age-old partnership between us and them: An unwritten quid pro quo that saw them protect us and assist us in return for the shelter and sustenance that we provided them -- duties that dogs carry out to this day, as any dog owner with a doorbell and a penchant for getting a lot of visitors can attest to.

As a dog owner myself, I am grateful to be surrounded by people who understand, or have eventually come to understand, just why they are given the title of “man’s best friend,” but I have also made peace with the fact that not everyone will share that belief.

And yet, that does nothing to excuse the utter betrayal that dogs face on the streets on an everyday basis. From  random acts of cruelty by the public to this recent state-sanctioned culling, any breach in the contract is being carried out squarely by the people themselves.

While the only crime dogs are guilty of is wagging their tails in expectation of our compassion.

Rubaiyat Kabir has been part of the Dhaka Tribune’s Editorial and Op-Ed department, and is currently a contributor.

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