Uttarakhand police horse Shaktiman, attacked in BJP rally, dies

Shaktiman, the Uttarakhand police horse which was attacked in a Bharatiya Janata Party rally in Dehradun, died at 5.30 pm today.

The once majestic Shaktiman succumbs to his injuries  

Ganesh Joshi, the BJP MLA from Mussoorie, had made waves of the wrong kind when videos of him apparently attacking the horse with a lathi during a BJP rally in Dehradun on 14 March went viral, was later arrested and is now out on bail (See: BJP MLA Ganesh Joshi held for assault on police horse). 

Pathetic efforts were on to fit Shaktiman with a prosthetic leg; reports say he was even made to stand up when the now ousted chief minister Harish Rawat visited him after the incident, only to collapse after the visit. But it all proved too much or too little; the infection in the leg could not be prevented from spreading.

"Shaktiman was injured on 14 March after which we had to operate on him. He was later fitted with an artificial leg. But he was unable to fully recover from an infection," senior superintendent of Police Dehradun Sadanand Date said.

"Though the artificial limb was put on Shaktiman, it was not working well and he was putting his entire weight on the other leg. That is why the infection spread. Today also a lot of care was taken and about eight doctors attended to the horse. It is sad that we could not save him," R S Meena, Inspector General Law and Order, Uttarakhand, said.

Shaktiman was a well trained horse and part of Uttarakhand Mounted Police for years.

"The horse passed away at 5.30 pm. He was suffering from medical-related complications. The exact cause will be known only after post mortem," Inspector General Garhwal Sanjay Gunjyal said.

Attempts to shift blame for the horse's plight are already underway. Speaking to reporters, BJP State president Ajay Bhatt said, "When Shaktiman was operated, he was made to stand continuously. He did not get adequate rest."

"Ganesh Joshi was actually hitting the ground, you cannot pin him for Shakitman's death," Bhatt added – leaving one to wonder if the horse's injury was self-inflicted.

Speaking to CNN News 18, Nikunj Sharma from People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) said, "I would say it's a black day for animal rights. He beat the horse, his leg was amputated and now he's dead. The law has to be strengthened in a way that anyone who injures or kills an animal gets stringent punishment. We call for a strong law today."

Many had argued that Shaktiman should be euthanised because of the pain and discomfort as he struggled to get used to his prosthetic leg.

Expressing shock over the demise of the horse, ousted Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat said,"It was a brave soldier of Uttarakhand and died while performing its duty."

Rawat said at one stage in recent weeks it appeared that the horse was getting well and trying to stand.

BJP's Shaina NC said this was not an issue to be politicised. "It is the loss of life of an animal," she said, adding animal lovers across the country feel that a wrong has been done. "I think we all need to own this up at our own end," she said.

According to a report on NDTV, 13-year-old Shaktiman was not responding to the prosthetic leg that Jamie Vaughan, who runs an NGO for veterinary care in Bhutan, brought from the US. The report further added that Shaktiman spent the last few days under the care of a group of policemen in Dehradun.

The officials taking care of the horse said that Shaktiman had stopped eating after the operation. A team of ten doctors had carried out the surgery on Shaktiman, said a report in The Hindu.

"Political workers must learn the value of restraint and tolerance. It seems the word tolerance does not exist in BJP's dictionary," Rawat said.

Uttarakhand is currently under President's Rule after the Harish Rawat-led Congress government was ousted by the centre. The matter is currently in the high court, which among other acerbic remarks from the bench has accused the centre of ''cutting at the roots of democracy''.