The chairman of the People for Animals (PFA) Haryana unit, Naresh Kadyan, has claimed that the two suspects in Saturday’s attack on three men transporting buffaloes in Delhi were trained by him — and that he had been conducting such “training” since 2005, allegedly on instructions from Maneka Gandhi, now the Union Minister for Women and Child Development.
“I was asked by Mrs Maneka Gandhi to conduct the training then. I remember during the exercise we had caught a truck carrying brushes made of mongoose hair. I told the volunteers that the first thing to do in such a situation is to call the police and let them do their job,” Kadyan told The Indian Express.
“Brothers Gaurav Gupta and Saurabh Gupta (accused in Saturday’s attack) were part of the exercise… I don’t know what kind of work these people now do under the umbrella of People for Animals… this is not the training I gave them,” said Kadyan, referring to Saturday’s assault.
According to its Facebook page — its website peopleforanimalsindia.org has been deactivated since Sunday — PFA is “India’s largest animal welfare organization”, with a network of 26 hospitals, 165 units and 2.5 lakh members.
Many PFA unit members said that the Union Minister was the organisation’s “leading founding member and guide”. Websites of most of the units said these chapters were set up “under the advice of Smt. Maneka Gandhi”.
Both the FIRs registered in connection with Saturday’s incident, and the PFA’s website, have listed the organisation’s address as 14, Ashoka Road, New Delhi, 110001, which is the official residence of Maneka Gandhi.
In 2013, PFA’s Facebook page ran a series titled ‘You Ask SHE Answers (All answers by Smt. Maneka Gandhi)’.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Gandhi declined to respond to queries on her role in the PFA.
“It is under the guidance of Maneka Gandhi that we have over 150 units today. But every unit has different goals and trustees,” said Biplab Mahapatra, PFA in-charge for Odisha.
Surat Prasad Gupta, in charge of PFA’s Agra Unit, said Gandhi is a “mentor” for the organisation, which is an “NGO minus any government backing”.
“Each unit generates its own money through donations and campaigns. We are affiliated with the Animal Welfare Board of India and receive a nominal amount from them through annual grants,” says Prasad.
According to data available on the website of the Animal Welfare Board of India, an advisory government body, two PFA units, Goa and Wardha, received grants of Rs 3,91,680 and Rs 3,70,000, respectively, under the Animal Birth Control scheme in 2015-16.
While its Facebook page, with “1,11,068 likes”, claimed that the group works to only “rescue and rehabilitate sick and needy animals”, members of several of its units said that “raids” have been a part of the organisation’s functioning, especially in Delhi.
“Gaurav Gupta and his brother Saurabh Gupta are part of the ‘raid team’ of the Delhi chapter. They hail from Ghaziabad and have full support from the top. They have been conducting raids along with volunteers for 10-12 years now and have been part of some major rescue operations,” said Ravi Dubey, founder and president of PFA, Faridabad.
Dubey said that the brothers also “raided homes with police if they found out that the residents were in possession of some illegal animal items, such as tiger hide”.
“I didn’t work much with them (Gaurav Gupta and Saurabh Gupta) but they are a part of the field work unit that conducted raids. They respond to complaints of animal cruelty, illegal wildlife trade, etc. They worked with independent volunteers,” said Rajiv Jain, 50, former president and member of PFA’s Delhi unit, which was established in 1998.
Manoj Kumar, vice president, PFA, Faridabad, said his unit conducts “one raid a month with about two-six volunteers”.
“Usually, our informers tip us off, and we get in touch with police and stop these vehicles. The animals are then taken to shelters, gaushalas, or PFA hospitals,” said Kumar.
At the Odisha branch, the average stands at “two-three raids a month to rescue animals that are being transported illegally”.
“We usually work in collaboration with the police because technically we have no authority to stop these vehicles,” said Mahapatra. Haryana’s Kadyan said, “It is not our prerogative to conduct raids. But with so many PFA units, little can be done to stop people who do such things. Ab poori dadagiri chalti hai (they have become bullies).”
The three men, who were assaulted on a main South Delhi road on Saturday night, have claimed that their attackers were travelling in vehicles with stickers of PFA on them. Police said they were called to the spot by Gaurav Gupta.
The vehicle that was intercepted was transporting buffaloes from Haryana’s Pataudi to Ghazipur in east Delhi. Police said two FIRs have been filed — one against the men transporting the animals; the other against unknown persons for assaulting them.
The men transporting the animals — Rizwan (25) and Kamil (25), and Ashu (28) from Mathura — were arrested under IPC section 429 (mischief by killing or maiming cattle) and provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act on the basis of a complaint by PFA members, police said. They were released on bail.
A case under IPC sections 323 (causing hurt) and 341 (wrongful restraint) was registered against unknown persons on a complaint filed by the driver of the vehicle, police said.
According to police, four FIRs have been registered this year on complaints received from PFA. Of these, three were registered by Gupta at Sarojini Nagar, Safdarjung Enclave and Kalkaji police stations — the last one over Saturday’s incident.
“In all these three FIRs, Gupta has mentioned his address as 14, Ashok Road, New Delhi. He mentions his designation as honorary animal welfare officer with the Animal Welfare Board of India and an officer posted with the wildlife crime and cruelty cell of the PFA,” Delhi Police DCP (southeast) Romil Baaniya said.