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From ‘love jihad’ to ‘lion jihad’!

But the controversy over a lion called Akbar and a lioness called Sita could only be considered as the natural culmination of the absurdity that defied romance, good sense and the law.
Last Updated 26 February 2024, 21:24 IST

When the ‘love jihad’ conspiracy theory originated, its most committed champions would not have imagined that it would be extended to the animal world, and would lead to a ‘lion jihad’ conspiracy theory in future.

But the controversy over a lion called Akbar and a lioness called Sita could only be considered as the natural culmination of the absurdity that defied romance, good sense and the law.

The controversy erupted after two lions were brought from a zoological park in Tripura to West Bengal’s Safari Park in Siliguri.

The question basically was whether a ‘Muslim’ lion and a ‘Hindu’ lioness could cohabit in the same cage. It did not matter that the male is an emperor, and the naming even became blasphemy because the female was a goddess.

The Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) took the matter to the Calcutta High Court. 

There are no laws regarding the naming of animals and the legal issues involved in the matter are not clear.

The court did not issue any direction but the judge suggested to the state government to consider giving the animals some other names to ensure that the “controversy is put to rest”.

The court also observed that animals should not be named after revered figures like gods, mythological heroes, freedom fighters, or Nobel laureates. If the court’s observation is to be the norm, hundreds of elephants would lose their names and many other animals their identity.

In any case, the ‘lion jihad’ conspiracy theorists’ problem was not calling the animals Akbar and Sita but allowing them to live in the same cage.

A jurisprudence of animal nomenclature may be needed and perhaps it may be forthcoming because the judge has allowed the petitioners to amend their writ into a public interest petition to be heard later. 

The state government shifted its responsibility by telling the court that the naming had actually been done in Tripura. It would not have liked to face an ‘animal jihad’ agitation now.

The lion and the lioness have now been separated and would be brought together only if they get new names or are de-named. But how do you de-name an animal? By notification? We make the animal world a mirror image of ours and introduce all our prejudices and stupidities into it.

It was reported from Kerala some years ago, perhaps with some exaggeration, that an elephant with a Christian name was barred entry into a temple.

Should our foolishness and religious prejudices be taken to such ridiculous lengths? Let lions and elephants and other animals be, and let them live their lives. We are making their life difficult in many ways. What right have we got to separate an animal couple for no fault of theirs?

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(Published 26 February 2024, 21:24 IST)

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