Guardian of the voiceless

Guardian of the voiceless

equine tales

Guardian of the voiceless

When someone tells you that he or she is an animal activist, the story most of the time, is about cats and dogs. Those furry feline creatures or cute dogs with melting eyes and wagging tails. But what about pigs, bulls or buffaloes? They may not conform to your typical archetype, but isn’t their welfare and well-being just as important?

Sandesh Raju, Bangalore’s one-man army, is a crusader for the welfare of the working animals. He runs a tight but effective NGO called Samabhava, a kannada word which translates to emotion and respect for all. When we met him, he was just shifting premises, running into a cybercafe to do his office work, carrying sackfuls of oats and hay to a shelter while trying to grab a samosa for himself, the first thing he has eaten in 12 hours. Adding to all of this, was the urgent business of a horse running amok in Goriguntepalya which he had to address.

The objectives
Yes, you have guessed it right. Sandesh has devoted himself to caring for equines. He works for the protection, care and well-being of working animals, especially horses. How many times have you seen a makeshift carriage filled with iron pipes that jut out? They are drawn by horses that get into a fast trot with one swish of the collapsible belt from the horse owner.

In the busy streets of City Market or in the fashionable business district, they are made to gallop in the midst of rush-hour traffic. If we find the traffic daunting, imagine these poor dumb creatures being caught bang in the middle of a bottleneck on Residency Road. Surely this is not what they were meant to do, these poor beasts of burden.

While Sandesh is practical and knows that these horrible practices cannot be stopped, what he aims to do is to educate and reach out to the caretaker and animal in their own neighbourhood.

So, invariably on any Sunday, you will find Sandesh carefully explaining the many facets of animal welfare to the caretakers of the animals. He has to win their confidence and trust, but Sandesh feels there is already a bond between owner and animal so it is easier to train them on how to incorporate scientific practices and not cause harm to the horses.

The story starts in Sandesh’s home. His family business was producing silk. The very thought of hundreds of silkworms being killed to produce silk yarn unsettled Sandesh. Maneka Gandhi would find a kindered spirit in him as she too has a massive campaign against silk. Her book Heads or tails led Sandesh to volunteer at the cat shelter of CUPA.

Medical intervention
Stressing on the importance of good animal feed, timely medical interventions and systematic welfare practices, Sandesh says that by effectively imparting appropriate animal management initiatives on a regular basis and keeping in constant touch with horse owners, many problems relating to the animal can actually be kept under control.

The aim is to ensure that the caretaker becomes self-sufficient and empowered to look after his animal and that Samabhava is called in only in emergencies. Vet volunteers look after equine health care besides sharing tips with horse owners and with Samabhava, distribute free medicines in the first year of welfare.

Sandesh’s commitment to his cause is admirable. He has taken a sabbatical form his job with a top MNC to pursue his interest. Apart from turning a vegetarian, a direct result of his love for animals, Sandesh has gone one step further and does not consume cheese, pizzas, milk or ice creams.

Samabhava has a rehab package and two horse shelters donated by animal lovers, one of which is in the sprawling grounds of Bangalore Palace. There are over 20 rescued horses which are in different stages of rehab. Sandesh keeps a vigilant eye on all of them.

Those who want to volunteer can call Sandesh on 9449559767.

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