|Titir Banerjee with one of her cats in the Bhowanipore building where she co-owns a medicine store.
Picture by Sanjoy Ghosh
A man was arrested on Thursday night for allegedly killing a stray cat with a single blow to its head and then dumping the carcass on the asbestos roof of a house.
Santosh Gurung, a 50-year-old pavement dweller doing odd jobs in a Bhowanipore apartment building, has been charged under a section of the Indian Penal Code that could land him in jail for a maximum of two years. Section 428 deals with “mischief by killing, poisoning or maiming animal”.
The complaint that led to Gurung’s arrest came from Titir Banerjee, a medicine store owner and animal lover who used to feed the cat.
The police are investigating if the accused had a hand in three other cat deaths in the compound in as many months.
“There were six cats here. Three of them died mysteriously in the past three months. Two were found dead in the compound with no injury marks and a third was found on the terrace of the adjoining building. It appeared that someone had thrown the cat from a height,” said Banerjee, co-owner of Charu Medical Stores on Harish Mukherjee Road.
The last of the feline victims was just seven months old but already a mother of four. She was found dead on August 11.
Banerjee cited “eyewitness accounts” while accusing Gurung of being the perpetrator. “When we confronted Gurung, he was remorseless. He said, ‘Besh korechhi…abar korbo (what I did is right…will do it again). I wonder if he had anything to do with the other three deaths,” she said.
On learning about the death of another of the cats she would feed in the Bhowanipore building that houses her medicine store, she decided to contact actress, politician and animal lover Debasree Roy for help.
“I knew that contacting her would help me get justice for my cat. She advised me on what I should do and I lodged a police complaint. To my surprise, the cops at Bhowanipore police station were sensitive to what had happened and started a case,” she recounted.
Banerjee keeps six dogs — two strays, three Spitz and a beagle — in her Keyatala home.
Gurung works in the Bhowanipore building and sleeps on a pavement near SSKM Hospital.
An officer at Bhowanipore police station said the accused had confessed to flinging the cat after it refused to budge from where he was washing a car. Gurung then allegedly struck the cat with a stick.
“This was a very unusual, yet valid complaint. Since the law permits the police to prosecute a person who kills an animal, we started a case at once,” the officer said.
For Banerjee, it’s just the beginning of the fight to save her furry friends. “I don’t have names for them. They are all alike and even if they are not pets in my home, they deserve to live,” she said.
While she spoke, a dog snored under a chair in her 10x10ft air-conditioned office behind the medicine store. The stray had just had had a hearty lunch.