Lost leg, suffered infection
DEHRADUN, Uttarakhand, India––Shaktimaan the police horse died at about 5:30 p.m. on April 20, 2016, of causes officially unknown pending necropsy, but believed to be a post-operative infection.
“It is extremely unfortunate and heart-breaking for us that the horse is no more. Post mortem will confirm the cause of death,” Uttarakhand police inspector general Sanjay Gunjyal told the Times of India.
Allegedly beaten by legislator
Shaktimaan on March 14, 2016 became a global cause celebre, after Uttarakhand legislative assembly member Ganesh Joshi was videotaped in the act of apparently beating the 14-year-old with a cane during a political rally. Several other men also assaulted Shaktimaan and mounted police rider Ravindra Singh during the same incident.
Misidentified as a mare in initial reports, Shaktimaan fell, suffering multiple fractures in his left rear leg. The leg was amputated after a team of 10 veterinarians headed by equine orthopedic surgeon Phiroze Khambatta spent three days trying unsuccessfully to save it.
Shaktimaan was then outfitted with a jointed prosthetic leg made in the U.S.
“Though the artificial limb was put on Shaktiman, it was not working well and he was putting his entire weight on the other leg,” Uttarakhand police spokesperson R.S. Meena told the Press Trust of India.
Weighing about 800 pounds when injured, Shaktimaan reportedly lost fifty pounds before his death.
Police horses “serve no purpose”
“Horses should no longer be part of our police system,” responded federal cabinet minister Maneka Gandhi, who founded the Indian national animal advocacy network People for Animals in 1988. “They serve no purpose and in every crowd engagement they are at the mercy of any vicious person who is too cowardly to do anything but injure the defenseless animal. Shaktimaan was a police officer on duty,” Mrs. Gandhi continued, “and the person who put him through so much pain and ultimately killed him should be arrested for killing a police officer.”
Legislator was charged
MLA Joshi, who allegedly beat Shaktimaan, was charged with cruelty to animals soon afterward, but was released on bail in time to have participated in a scheduled vote of confidence on the Uttarakhand government then headed by Congress Party member Harish Rawat.
Joshi, like Mrs. Gandhi a member of the Hindu nationalist Baratiya Janata Party, was helping to lead the March 14, 2016 demonstration against the Rawat regime.
But the vote of confidence, set for March 28, 2016, was never held. Rawat, who lauded Shaktimaan as “a brave solider of Uttarakhand who died performing his duty,” instead resigned.
“I never touched the horse”
Joshi has repeatedly claimed innocence. ““I never touched the horse,” Joshi told Aman Sharma of the Economic Times, a day after Shaktimaan fell. “I hit the road with a baton to push the horse back, as another horse ran over our activist who is now in ICU [intensive care unit]. I am an animal lover. I have a street dog at home.”
After Shaktiman died, Joshi added, “Very sad. I already said that I am not at fault. If found guilty, then cut my leg.”
The man in blue
Three videos and a variety of other images of the March 14, 2016 incident inspected by ANIMALS 24-7 showed no fallen activist.
The first video showed Joshi, at first in the background and later in the immediate foreground, swinging a cane toward Shaktimaan three times with two hands and once with one hand. One cane blow appeared to land solidly on Shaktimaan’s broken left hind leg. If the other three cane blows struck Shaktimaan, which was unclear, they struck his front legs, not the hind leg that was fractured.
Also shown in the first video was a man in a blue jacket darting through the melee to punch Shaktimaan. This man then disappeared into the crowd.
The second video showed another man pulling an object, apparently a riding crop, from the mounted police officer’s pocket. Shaktiman was shown falling, but why was not evident.
The third video showed the scene from almost the same angle, but farther back, offering more of a panorama. It established that Shaktiman was not hit by a police vehicle, as some defenders of Joshi alleged.
Animal advocates questioned the efforts made to save Shaktimaan, Said Dehradun activist Gauri Maulekhi said, “Shaktiman died the same day when he was attacked and his leg broken. Horses with such weight have very little chance to live on three legs. We were mentally prepared for this, but political parties are playing blame games.”
Agreed PETA/India, “Shaktimaan was essentially killed the day his leg was broken, and we have been saddened ever since. PETA’s equine veterinarian, Dr Manilal Valliyate, warned that his quality of life would be forever affected and that he would likely not live long.”