By Taniya Dutta
Desperate Indian parents armed with guns and batons are patrolling their neighbourhood to eliminate pack of feral dogs that have killed 12 children in brutal attacks.
Six children, aged between five and 12 were killed in Sitapur village in the past one week and over two dozen children have been injured in the attacks.
Most of the children were attacked when they were out gathering mangoes or left their houses to use outhouse toilets.
With the increasing number of fatalities, local police have decided to deploy drones and use night vision devices to track and trap feral dogs.
But villagers of Sitapur have launched their own patrolling to guard their children.
The decision came a day after a seven-year-old girl named Gita, who had gone with two other children to pick mangoes from an orchard, was mauled by a pack of dogs on Friday.
Two children escaped but Gita was surrounded by the dogs. Her screams alerted villagers who ran to help, but she had died by the time they reached her.
Rajendra Kumar, an eyewitness said: “We were walking past these kids when we saw one dog madly attacking one girl. We all carry batons in hand in case we face a dog. We started hitting the dog but it went mad. Somehow we managed to chase it away but Geeta died of her injuries.”
While dog bites are fairly common in the country that has 30 million stray dogs, cases of fatalities are rare and particularly coming from one area is alarming.
The mutts often survive on leftover food set in alleys for them.
Some villagers believe the attacks began after a nearby illegal slaughterhouse was closed, making the dogs more aggressive after they were left without a major source of food.
After the growing number of fatalities were reported, 33 dogs were trapped from around the village and sent for sterilisation. But locals believe there are still seven dogs left to be trapped.
Nabi Ahmed, village head, said: “The situation is very bad in the area. The dogs have even attacked kids in the neighbouring villages. There are seven of them. We are not letting our kids go outside alone. We have raised the issue with police and administration.”
The local police has also advised the residents to not allow their children to leave their houses alone and also chalking out a plan to sensitise the residents about dog attacks and ways to escape them.
DGP Om Prakash Singh said that a survey by police teams suggested that the menace of the feral dogs existed mainly in 20 villages within a 20-km radius under the police stations of Sitapur Kotwali, Khairabad and Talgaon.
Mr Singh said: “Police station in-charges, as well as other officers of Sitapur, have been asked to sensitise villagers about dog attacks and also appeal to them to not allow their children to move out of their houses alone until the dogs are caught.
“Extra police response vehicles of UP 100 (police emergency response centre) have been deployed in the areas where dog menace is acute to intensify patrolling and avert any further casualties.”