A short article about the Nawab of Junagadh, who fled from India to the newly formed state of Pakistan soon after 1947. He was a keen dog lover, but this was to be the cause of his demise…
The picture shows dogs resting in the shade provided by a beached fishing vessel in the estuary of the River Rukmavati at the town of Mandvi in the former Kingdom of Kutch, now part of Gujarat.
Nearby, there were many similar fishing boats, all manned by Muslim seamen. These boats sail into the Gulf of Kutch, a piece of water that separates most of Kutch from another part of Gujarat, Saurashtra (or Kathiawad).
The vessels are allowed to sail as far west as Okha, but no further as they would then stray into Pakistani water. We were told that there is quite a good deal of smuggling between the Indian and Pakistani fishermen. The Indians have to be careful because they might be arrested in Pakistani waters, as a recent newspaper report reveals:
“A group of 100 Indian fishermen Monday crossed over to the Indian side through
Attari-Wagah border after the Pakistan government released them from jail as a goodwill gesture.
Immediately after the repatriation, a medical examination of all the fishermen was conducted, they said.
The neighbouring country had released the first batch of 100 Indian fishermen on April 7.
The fishermen were arrested for fishing illegally in Pakistani waters during various operations.
Both the countries frequently arrest fishermen as there is no clear demarcation of the maritime border in the Arabian Sea and these fishermen do not have boats equipped with the technology to know their precise location.”
All over Gujarat (and in other parts of India that I have visited), I have seen wild creatures being fed in urban areas. Wild dogs are offered biscuits and other scraps. Pigeons and crows are given grain and water, often in special feeding and drinking vessels. Cattle are fed foliage at Hindu temples, and so on.
When I asked someone about this very prevalent public animal feeding, he told me that all of it was due to members of the Jain communities. I was unsure about the accuracy of this response. So, I asked other people about it. One autorickshaw driver in Ahmedabad, a Muslim, assured us that it was not just the Jains who care for the untamed creatures in the city; everyone cared for these animals.
Recently, when visiting a mosque in the centre of Ahmedabad, I spotted three bowls filled with clean water in front of the 15th century masjid. I asked a caretaker what purpose these bowls served. He pointed at the pigeons roosting high up in niches and balconies on the facade of the mosque.
Now, a fanciful idea entered our minds. If you believe in reincarnation, then there is every reason to care for all creatures. For example, that pigeon enjoying grain on one of the many pigeon coops, which can be seen in Ahmedabad and other cities in Gujarat, might be a reincarnation of your great aunt. More worryingly, it might be you or me, who will be reincarnated as a wild dog or maybe a wild pussy cat.
If you do believe in reincarnation or do not totally disbelieve in it, it is best to play safe and look after the urban wildlife around you. You never know, but it might be you one day!
Now, you might object to the above by saying that Muslims and Christians do not believe in reincarnation. And, you will not be wrong. Now I will make a wild conjecture. Many of today’s Indian Muslims and Christians had Hindu ancestors, all of whom believed in reincarnation. Is it not faintly possible that a trace of this belief might not have been inherited by their non Hindu descendants? And, if I am right, might this help to explain the care for animals that is exhibited by members of all of the great religions of India? I am only “thinking aloud”, as my late father in law used to say when he was suggesting something that did not meet with the family’s approval.