Mumbai belongs to the Hall of Shame, indeed! One day I am getting hopeful about being in Mumbai, reading the email exchanges about Gurupurnima and people’s respect for their gurus. The next day I am awakened to and reminded of the fact that Horse Carriages in Mumbai are still around, though the horses that lug these carriages are far from alive and kicking.
While in principle India has been liberated from the British Raj and has released herself from the colonial clutches, Mumbai is still bound in its backward thinking with the presence of horse carriages that, to date, parade the tourist havens of Mumbai (Colaba, the Gateway of India, Andheri, and so on). The carriages I am referring to, are no doubt, beautiful Victorian carriages that take me back to my history textbooks, where memories of the British empire and their rule in India is still fresh in my mind. When I used to visit Mumbai in my summer holidays from Dubai, I was always in awe of these magnificent carriages, as if they were pulled out directly from the Mahabharta, a Hindu epic in which Lord Krishna rides the chariot and teaches Arjuna several important lessons in being human. But this spiritual image has been radically eradicated in my time in Mumbai, as I am becoming more aware of the cruelty and harshness these beasts of burden are put through, every single day.
Beautiful images, aren’t they? Perhaps beautiful, and very sad indeed. There is a city wide protest and campaign to end these archaic tourist traps. This is mainly because it is becoming more and more apparent that these horses, that work day in and day out and lug a number of tourists, are severely neglected and abused. A litany of their abuses range from poor nutrition, to standing in filth and in their own feces, to being knee deep in rain water for hours, to being “cold shoed”, which means rather than finding a shoe that fits the horse’s foot, owners get the hooves brutally hacked to fit into smaller shoes (this makes the horses unstable on their legs, and their hooves begin to rot). Need I go on? It is also becoming obvious that very little attention is paid to these creatures by their owners, as well as by the animal and husbandry authorities of Mumbai. Horses are loyal creatures and are hard workers. Why are we not showing them some respect when they are helping us earn our bread and butter?
These acts of cruelty are being published a lot more often in the newspapers. I am so tempted to post an image of a severaly injured horse, but will spare my readers of the possible pain and anguish they may experience on seeing the image. Instead, I am including a small write up below, from the Times of India newspaper, on the situation regarding the horse carriages in Mumbai:
While vigil is held for 1 horse, another collapses
Vijay Singh, TNN | Jul 4, 2012, 01.55AM IST
MUMBAI: A horse drawing a carriage was critically injured after it collapsed at Gateway of India on Tuesday, the same day members of ‘Mumbai for Horses’ held a silent candlelight vigil outside the BMC headquarters, in memory of another horse, Sultan, which died at the spot on Sunday.
Vicky Khatwani, who was witness to the horse that fell down at Gateway, told TOI, “Around 7pm, I noticed a horse, looking weak and visibly in pain, pulling a carriage with four tourists in it. Suddenly, it yelped and collapsed on the road.” He added that the animal was in no condition to get up and some citizens informed the police of the incident. At 10.30pm, after braving heavy rain and bearing the pain of two fractures on its legs, the horse was finally taken to the Colaba police station.
The animal hospital in Parel has been informed about the horse and the Colaba police are inquiring about the handler. A case is likely to be lodged under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
Amanat Mehta, a member of Mumbai for Horses, said the animal was in excruciating pain at the police station. “It is evident that the horse was overworked, pulling the heavy load of tourists every day. This cruelty must be stopped by banning carriages in Mumbai.”
Organizations such at PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and PAWS (Plants and Animals Welfare Society) are lobbying for the ban of these carriages, bringing to the awareness of Mumbaikers that these are not charming Victorian chariots, but emblems of the British reign and emblems of Mumbai’s ignorance; we are ignorant of the message we are sending to the rest of the world – that we are still holding on to our colonial mentality, at least in this respect. This time, we are the colonizers, the horses the colonized.
Delhi has banned horse carriages a long time ago – what is Mumbai waiting for? If Mumbai is a modern city, flouting its BMWs and Audis and Porsches, what are horse carriages doing in the mix? The Hall of Shame welcomes you, Mumbai. Hope it does not last for too long.