Police sent to find Indian minister’s missing buffalo

Investigation hampered by ‘lack of distinctive markings’ on the animals




Hundreds of policemen were deployed in the Uttar Pradesh province to recover seven buffalo belonging to an Indian minister. Photograph: Biju Boro/AFP/GettyImages

Hundreds of policemen were deployed in the Uttar Pradesh province to recover seven buffalo belonging to an Indian minister. Photograph: Biju Boro/AFP/GettyImages

 

Hundreds of policemen were deployed in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh province to recover seven buffalo belonging to a powerful minister that went missing over the weekend.

For more than 24 hours, police teams aided by sniffer dogs and professional trackers raided farms, dairies and abattoirs in Rampur, 192km east of New Delhi, to try to track down senior provincial minister Azam Khan’s seven prized buffalo.

The animals were recovered on Sunday grazing in some fields a little distance away, oblivious to the furore their temporary absence had generated.

Ten locals have been detained by the police for allegedly “kidnapping” the buffaloes. Three policemen who were on patrol around the minister’s farmhouse on the night they went missing have been suspended for “dereliction of duty”.

Local officials said these “errant” policemen faced the prospect of “harsh punishment” when the inquiry into their carelessness was completed over the next few weeks.

“Apart from forming 10 separate teams which fanned out in different parts of Rampur, we also pressed sniffer dogs into service to track down the stolen buffalo,” said local police chief Sadhna Goswami.

“Ultimately, their trail was detected by the sniffer dogs who led our teams to recover five of the buffalo. The remaining two were tracked down by another team.”

The case featured in mocking reports on national television and newspapers for nearly two days before the buffalo were found.

Local TV channels in Uttar Pradesh, however, avidly followed the twists and turns in the hunt that was complicated by the fact that buffalo generally do not have distinctive markings. The animals’ inability to recognise their minders also did not help.

Mr Khan betrayed no embarrassment over the incident and instead berated the media for their sardonic coverage.

“Is this news? I thank the media for making it news,” he said yesterday, but declined to comment further.

The opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost no time in scoring political points over the incident. “When Azam Khan’s buffalo are stolen, arrests are made, action is taken; but when riots happen in Uttar Pradesh no action is taken,” BJP spokesman Siddharth Nath Singh complained.

He was referring to state inaction during the recent sectarian riots between Hindus and Muslims in Muzaffarnagar district in which nearly 45 people were killed and hundreds of people were left homeless.