Animal Cruelty

As medical students stab and burn a monkey in Vellore, activists demand stricter animal welfare laws

Psychiatrists say the students themselves may need treatment.

On Tuesday, animal welfare activists exhumed the body of a year-old monkey that had been tortured to death allegedly by four students of the Christian Medical College in Vellore, near Chennai. The partially burnt body of the female monkey had multiple fractures from being tied up and beaten, and a stick had been inserted in her rectum and forced out through the front of her body.

The incident – which brought back memories of another case in July, when two medical students in Chennai had thrown a dog off a terrace and filmed the act – has animal rights activists in Tamil Nadu up in arms, demanding stricter laws and harsher punishment for crimes against animals. In the Chennai case, the dog escaped with fractures while the perpetrators were let off on paying a fine of Rs 2 lakhs and allowed to continue their education.

“The law needs to impose harsher punishment, only then will such acts of cruelty be curbed,” said activist Shravan Krishnan, who had rescued the dog Bhadra.

According to S Thiyagarajan, secretary of the Madras Society for Prevention of Cruelty and Care of Animals, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is not a deterrent at all. Referring to the killing of the monkey in Vellore, he said, “If this case is taken up under this Act, there is only a fine of Rs 50 as per law while under the Wildlife Protection Act, the fine amount will increase to a few thousand rupees.”

He added, “This is not enough. The authorities need to come up with stricter laws.”

Animal welfare campaigner Radha Rajan, a petitioner in the case calling for a ban on the bull-racing sport of Jallikattu, warned, “If animal abuse can go unpunished, this will translate into violence and abuse against women and children.”

Treatment for killers? 

Psychiatrists in the state were shocked that the perpetrators of the crime were students of medicine.

“I think this is really pathetic,” said Dr Lakshmi Vijaykumar, a senior psychiatrist with the World Health Organisation. “You’re supposed to regard every life as important and precious, especially as a doctor. This cannot be pardoned by any stretch of the imagination.”

She also pointed out that students of medicine were more likely to lack empathy towards animals due to the nature of their studies. “These students are probably anaesthetised to suffering,” she said. “Medical students, during the course of their studies, generally cut open frogs, rats and human cadavers, so there may be some anaesthetisation in that sense.”

Vijaykumar said this was also a kind of group behaviour. “If you asked those boys now, they would probably say their intention was not to hurt the animal,” she added. “This is a kind of group behaviour. One person starts it and it gives you a sense of power. In a group, the responsibility is diluted.”

Other experts said such students may need treatment themselves. “It is saddening that medical students have done such a thing,” said Dr Nappinai, a psychiatrist. “In a profession like medicine, one needs to have more tolerance. These students are taking out their depression and stress on animals in this fashion and it is a kind of illness. Unless such students are immediately treated, the possibility of them indulging in more violent acts will increase very quickly.”

Tortured to death 

The animal rescue team that had the body of the monkey exhumed said the brutality was shocking.

“The monkey was abused by the worst means,” said Antony Robin, one of the activists involved in exhuming the body. “Her hand was tied in the rear side and a telephone wire was tied to her neck. We observed fractures in the knee, ankle, neck and other places. We also noticed a sharp object was inserted from behind and came in front. This is by far the worst case [of animal cruelty] we have seen.”

A police official, who was also part of the exercise, said the corpse was partially burnt. “We have sent the body for post-mortem,” he said. “The college authorities are cooperating with the investigation.”

The rescue team received an anonymous tip-off about the crime. “On November 21, we got a call from Meet Azar [an animal welfare activist] from Mumbai about an anonymous call mentioning a monkey being brutally killed in Christian Medical College, Vellore,” said Robin. “We – Dinesh Baba, Nishanth Nichu, Shravan Krishnan and myself – immediately started from Chennai and headed to Vellore to look into it.”

The next day, the team gathered the police, a forest department team, the tehsildar, a village administrative officer and a veterinarian from the Tamil Nadu animal husbandry department and had the body dug up.

On Wednesday, the college suspended the four medical students – who had allegedly tortured the monkey in front of 30-odd students, one of whom had then sent the tip-off. The police filed a first information report under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972. The FIR identified the students as Jasfar Samuvel, Rohit Kumar Yenukutti, Arun Luvis and Aleks Selkaleyal.

“We have always had a lot of monkeys on our campus,” said A Durai, public relations officer for the college. “Such an incident has never happened even when the monkeys have been troublesome. We are shocked at what has happened. We have conducted our own enquiries and suspended the four students immediately.”

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Behind the garb of wealth and success, white collar criminals are hiding in plain sight

Understanding the forces that motivate leaders to become fraudsters.

Most con artists are very easy to like; the ones that belong to the corporate society, even more so. The Jordan Belforts of the world are confident, sharp and can smooth-talk their way into convincing people to bend at their will. For years, Harshad Mehta, a practiced con-artist, employed all-of-the-above to earn the sobriquet “big bull” on Dalaal Street. In 1992, the stockbroker used the pump and dump technique, explained later, to falsely inflate the Sensex from 1,194 points to 4,467. It was only after the scam that journalist Sucheta Dalal, acting on a tip-off, broke the story exposing how he fraudulently dipped into the banking system to finance a boom that manipulated the stock market.

Play

In her book ‘The confidence game’, Maria Konnikova observes that con artists are expert storytellers - “When a story is plausible, we often assume it’s true.” Harshad Mehta’s story was an endearing rags-to-riches tale in which an insurance agent turned stockbroker flourished based on his skill and knowledge of the market. For years, he gave hope to marketmen that they too could one day live in a 15,000 sq.ft. posh apartment with a swimming pool in upmarket Worli.

One such marketman was Ketan Parekh who took over Dalaal Street after the arrest of Harshad Mehta. Ketan Parekh kept a low profile and broke character only to celebrate milestones such as reaching Rs. 100 crore in net worth, for which he threw a lavish bash with a star-studded guest-list to show off his wealth and connections. Ketan Parekh, a trainee in Harshad Mehta’s company, used the same infamous pump-and-dump scheme to make his riches. In that, he first used false bank documents to buy high stakes in shares that would inflate the stock prices of certain companies. The rise in stock prices lured in other institutional investors, further increasing the price of the stock. Once the price was high, Ketan dumped these stocks making huge profits and causing the stock market to take a tumble since it was propped up on misleading share prices. Ketan Parekh was later implicated in the 2001 securities scam and is serving a 14-years SEBI ban. The tactics employed by Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh were similar, in that they found a loophole in the system and took advantage of it to accumulate an obscene amount of wealth.

Play

Call it greed, addiction or smarts, the 1992 and 2001 Securities Scams, for the first time, revealed the magnitude of white collar crimes in India. To fill the gaps exposed through these scams, the Securities Laws Act 1995 widened SEBI’s jurisdiction and allowed it to regulate depositories, FIIs, venture capital funds and credit-rating agencies. SEBI further received greater autonomy to penalise capital market violations with a fine of Rs 10 lakhs.

Despite an empowered regulatory body, the next white-collar crime struck India’s capital market with a massive blow. In a confession letter, Ramalinga Raju, ex-chairman of Satyam Computers convicted of criminal conspiracy and financial fraud, disclosed that Satyam’s balance sheets were cooked up to show an excess of revenues amounting to Rs. 7,000 crore. This accounting fraud allowed the chairman to keep the share prices of the company high. The deception, once revealed to unsuspecting board members and shareholders, made the company’s stock prices crash, with the investors losing as much as Rs. 14,000 crores. The crash of India’s fourth largest software services company is often likened to the bankruptcy of Enron - both companies achieved dizzying heights but collapsed to the ground taking their shareholders with them. Ramalinga Raju wrote in his letter “it was like riding a tiger, not knowing how to get off without being eaten”, implying that even after the realisation of consequences of the crime, it was impossible for him to rectify it.

It is theorised that white-collar crimes like these are highly rationalised. The motivation for the crime can be linked to the strain theory developed by Robert K Merton who stated that society puts pressure on individuals to achieve socially accepted goals (the importance of money, social status etc.). Not having the means to achieve those goals leads individuals to commit crimes.

Take the case of the executive who spent nine years in McKinsey as managing director and thereafter on the corporate and non-profit boards of Goldman Sachs, Procter & Gamble, American Airlines, and Harvard Business School. Rajat Gupta was a figure of success. Furthermore, his commitment to philanthropy added an additional layer of credibility to his image. He created the American India Foundation which brought in millions of dollars in philanthropic contributions from NRIs to development programs across the country. Rajat Gupta’s descent started during the investigation on Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri-Lankan hedge fund manager accused of insider trading. Convicted for leaking confidential information about Warren Buffet’s sizeable investment plans for Goldman Sachs to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat Gupta was found guilty of conspiracy and three counts of securities fraud. Safe to say, Mr. Gupta’s philanthropic work did not sway the jury.

Play

The people discussed above have one thing in common - each one of them was well respected and celebrated for their industry prowess and social standing, but got sucked down a path of non-violent crime. The question remains - Why are individuals at successful positions willing to risk it all? The book Why They Do It: Inside the mind of the White-Collar Criminal based on a research by Eugene Soltes reveals a startling insight. Soltes spoke to fifty white collar criminals to understand their motivations behind the crimes. Like most of us, Soltes expected the workings of a calculated and greedy mind behind the crimes, something that could separate them from regular people. However, the results were surprisingly unnerving. According to the research, most of the executives who committed crimes made decisions the way we all do–on the basis of their intuitions and gut feelings. They often didn’t realise the consequences of their action and got caught in the flow of making more money.

Play

The arena of white collar crimes is full of commanding players with large and complex personalities. Billions, starring Damien Lewis and Paul Giamatti, captures the undercurrents of Wall Street and delivers a high-octane ‘ruthless attorney vs wealthy kingpin’ drama. The show looks at the fine line between success and fraud in the stock market. Bobby Axelrod, the hedge fund kingpin, skilfully walks on this fine line like a tightrope walker, making it difficult for Chuck Rhoades, a US attorney, to build a case against him.

If financial drama is your thing, then block your weekend for Billions. You can catch it on Hotstar Premium, a platform that offers a wide collection of popular and Emmy-winning shows such as Game of Thrones, Modern Family and This Is Us, in addition to live sports coverage, and movies. To subscribe, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hotstar and not by the Scroll editorial team.