Soaring street strays might seem part of life now, but the canine terror they create makes many believe that life has gone to dogs in the Valley.
Back to Kashmir’s ‘Dog Center’ after nine months, Hajira is cooling her heels in a crowded corridor. She sheepishly watches mauled men, women and children being taken for emergency treatment. Last summer, she was brought here in a similar manner.
“I had gone to check on the grazing sheep in our farms when out of nowhere, I was ambushed by five stray dogs leaving me unconscious on the spot,” says the elderly woman, lapping her grandson. She was rescued by boys playing on the other end of the ground.
Apart from multiple bites, she suffered a dislocated shoulder and three fractured fingers that she is still struggling to keep straight.
Last week, her grandson was coming back from seminary when he was chased by a stray dog. The canine attack left him bleeding on the street and resent Hajira to the clinic, this time, as an attendant, of the second dog bite victim in her family.
Wagons loaded with mauled Kashmiris bear a stark resemblance with the strife-saddled ambulances of 2016 upon making a screeching halt inside Kashmir’s ‘emergency-dealing’ SHMS hospital.
After every ten minutes, a patient looking for Anti-Rabies Clinic can be heard on the lawn of the hospital.
Another vehicle arrives with an attacked elder, instantly taken out by two young sturdy men. Some street strays in a Srinagar pocket has left painful marks on his fragile figure.
The ‘early-bird’ was out to offer dawn prayers in his local mosque when pounced and left bleeding by an irate pack.
“He fought back by stoning the dogs,” the elder’s young son says. “But by then, they had already left him mauled.”
Once he arrived home, he was first treated for his wounds, before finally taken out for the treatment.
Such stories of street assault are routine accounts in the clinic full of bitten and battered Kashmiris. But medics who daily cater to around 60 patients say they’re tackling “a war-like situation” at a time when dogs are “multiplying like rats” in Kashmir.
Among their victims are early-risers, joggers, farmers, trekkers, and kids.
“Children mostly become victims of the canine terror for their untamed fight-and-flight response,” says a doctor dressing a wound in the clinic.
“The same panic response recently ended up killing an 8-year-old Pulwama boy, when on his way to playfield he was attacked by rabid dogs.” With the opening of schools, the health staff fears more bite cases.
Such instances have stacked up over the years and are making the medicos to pitch for a clean-sweep across the dog-dotted landscape. But the animal rights activists opine that rather than culling canines, they should be sterilized for ‘the good of everyone’.
“We’re clearly at the receiving end of this rising biting terror in Kashmir,” says a senior doctor. “It’s like tackling a combat crisis.”
Only SHMS hospital has reportedly received more than 30 thousand cases in past five years. The numbers could be higher, the doctor adds, if the patients aren’t treated at local dispensaries and clinics in their respective districts.
Inside the clinic of the SMHS hospital, a young nurse details her daily routine of attending deformed faces, bitten hands and torn legs.
“From the past 6 months, we daily attend around 60 dog bite cases in this clinic between 10 am and 6 pm,” says the nurse, adding that without much variance, cases are consistent from all across the valley and all age groups. “Mostly, dogs bite on legs and make patients limp.”
But Kashmir’s canine chronicles, many argue, aren’t about the numbers alone.
It’s about the unchecked and unregulated assault on the already assailed life in the valley, says Umar Bhat, a trader. “This makes a clear point that dogs are more secure in Kashmir than humans.”
Waiting for their turns to receive the vaccine in the clinic, two women patients are talking about the teething terror.
But while they talk, some patients get shaken as an official shares with them the latest video clip making rounds on social media. The visuals show dogs having a field day in Kashmir.
“I was walking towards my sister’s place at Brain Nishat recently when I was dragged by a dog,” says one of the two women in her mid-30s.
“It luckily didn’t bite me but before I could even make sense of what hit me, the dog ripped apart my bag.” She got minor scratches and abrasions for which she’s taking the anti-rabies vaccine.
While the situation reminds many that every dog has its day in the valley right now, it’s the absence of the counter-mechanism which is unabatedly bleeding Kashmir.