Pictures and videos of Noorie, a nine-year-old stray dog, on Instagram today show her posing cutely, eating bowls of dog-safe ice cream and snuggling up under a cosy blanket. Her baby pink collar matches her nose and her cream-coloured, short fur perfectly.
However, a little over two weeks ago, Noorie was found whimpering and in a devastating state, lying in a pool of her own blood near Galleria Mall in Powai, Mumbai. She had been raped and assaulted with an 11-inch wooden stick, which was shoved inside her vaginal canal.
The damage done to her internal organs because of the stick was immense, and yet, it was still a couple of days before residents of the area discovered her trauma. Here is how selfless compassion saved Noorie and brought the culprit to justice.
First Responders For Noorie
It was during Durga Puja, on the evening of October 22, when a disturbing video was sent to Devi Sheth, a resident of Powai.
Speaking to The Better India, Devi says the residents have divided the area into sections to take care of the strays. “There are six to seven people, including my mother, who take care of feeding nearly 40 dogs in their section,” she says.
The video sent by a passerby showed Noorie lying “listless in a pool of her own blood”. Devi, along with her mother, Minnu Sheth, immediately rushed to the dog’s aid. “Initially we thought it was a hit-and-run case, but after I cleaned her up, I realised there was no external wound and that she was bleeding from her vagina. We immediately contacted the World For All (WFA) ambulance helpline number after that,” she adds.
A couple of days before the incident being reported, Paramita Banerjee, another resident of Powai, who has been in charge of feeding Noorie for four and a half years now, noticed that she wasn’t eating properly.
“Noorie is a fussy eater. Every time I have to feed her I have to call her endearing names like ‘my Noorie’, ‘my Poonam Dhillon’ (a reference to the lead actress of the 1979 Bollywood film titled Noorie), and only then will she eat,” says Paramita, explaining why her absence of appetite wasn’t too much of a worry at first.
She explains, “Noorie is famous for taking her own sweet time to come when called for food being served. She needs that extra nudge and often would place her head on my lap and wait for a few pets before eating.”
“It was later discovered that the incident occurred the previous Sunday, October 18, at night inside the mall. The first few days after the incident, Noorie seemed fine, but after that, her condition deteriorated as she wasn’t eating. Meanwhile, her buddy Kalu, a black-and-white pariah, had also been missing since Sunday itself,” says Devi, adding that the two are usually inseparable. Kalu, often being protective of Noorie, is suspected of having been driven away by the accused Sambhunath Pradhan, a Bengali sweet shop worker, who Devi says, lived inside the mall.
Much to the horror of the WFA veterinarian examining Noorie, Dr Akshata Gulvady found an 11-inch wooden stick barbarically shoved into the dog’s vagina. Taronish Bulsara, 33, who founded WFA a decade ago, called Devi to inform her of Noorie’s rape and that they will need to file a First Information Report (FIR).
Meanwhile, Noorie had to be rushed into surgery with Dr Akshata and her team of three vets, one para vet and the rest of the medical staff at WFA. “The operation went on from 11 pm till 4.30 am the next morning. At one point during the surgery, Noorie’s heart stopped beating, and she stopped breathing due to blood loss. They had to make use of body staples, which we don’t generally use for animals but in this emergency case we had to do so to stop the bleeding,” says Taronish.
When Devi and the residents were informed of Noorie’s assault, they contacted Bombay Animal Rights (BAR), an organisation that is actively involved in animal rights. “At around 10.30 pm we reached Powai police station to file an FIR. A lot of the times, the police stations are not abreast with animal laws of the country, and so we take an old FIR of a similar case for their reference,” says Vijay Kishore Mohanani, 45, who started BAR two years ago after the rape of a dog named Bindu.
However, Vijay adds that the police were very cooperative and prompt in handling the case.
“The police were extra helpful and cooperative. They even managed to conduct a spot panchnama, a process during the initial investigation of revisiting the crime scene to take note of the CCTV cameras, etc., on the same night. We wrapped up with the police formalities at 4.30-5 am,” he says.
Senior inspector Dilip Dhamunse, who took cognisance of the case, confirmed during the panchnama that the stick used to assault Noorie was taken from “a furniture store in the mall that had a lot of wooden sticks, similar to the one inserted into the dog, lying around”.
On her daily trips to feed the dogs, Paramita was informed by the mall security guard that a man would take the dogs for a walk. “Who takes stray dogs for a walk?” she wondered.
This detail later led to the accused being taken for investigation and finally arrested under Section 377/492/11 of the IPC, which terms bestiality and “unnatural sex” as a non-bailable offence. The arrest was made in less than 48 hours since the FIR was lodged.
“It was revealed during the investigation as the rapist confessed to the crime and said that he inserted the stick into the dog to kill any possible child that may have been conceived,” says Vijay.
Citizens Who Care
It has been a very tense couple of days at the WFA centre, admits Taronish. “We had to take daily sonographies of Noorie. Some wet tissues in her body were being rejected,” he adds, saying, “She is a very loving and sweet-natured dog. It only goes to show that we have a lot to learn from animals. Even now, she comes and rests her head on your lap. She is very trusting. We were relieved when she finally passed stools. She is slowly getting better.”
WFA’s Instagram page requesting supporters to help with funds amounting to nearly Rs 1 lakh received a tremendous response. “The initial treatment costs put out on social media were only estimates, and we raised the money in less than 24 hours. But people still wanted to donate for the cause. It was only afterwards that we realised we needed to take daily sonographies and even buy pee pads for Noorie,” says Taronish.
The residents of Hiranandani Gardens, Powai, also donated generously. “We forwarded the message on a lot of Whatsapp groups,” says Devi.
Now, after a period of 18 days, Kalu was found and reunited with his best friend, Noorie. And even though the duo may not be returning to Powai, Devi hopes the two will be put up for joint adoption so that they can stay together. “You hear about cases like Bindu, but when it happens to your own dog you feel terrible that you couldn’t have protected them from horrible people,” adds the 25-year-old.
Urging people and animal activists who notice wounded strays to be in touch, Vijay says his team of over 80,000 volunteers at BAR are equipped to deal with emergency cases such as Noorie. “There are probably 100 Noories out there who are facing this brutality, and it goes unreported. It’s always difficult to find people who reach out in time to bring faster relief to the animals,” Vijay concludes.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)