AFTERMATH OF LAFIQUL KILLING
Dhubri, Mancachar & South Salmara sector of Assam-Bangla border a major cattle smuggling corridor
By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, Aug 3: The issue of illegal cattle trade between India and Bangladesh is once again making headlines following the killing of All Bodoland Minority Students Union (ABMSU) president Lafiqul Islam in Kokajhar by a suspected cattle smuggler, who has since been arrested.
And if sources are to be believed, those involved in cattle smuggling have formed a powerful syndicate in the State with even political links. The cattle smugglers are also reported to have developed contacts with a section of corrupt officials belonging to law enforcing agencies on both sides of the border to smoothly carry out their illegal trade.
However, following the killing of Islam, some of these officials are reportedly under scanner. The police have also been asked to maintain strict vigil.
Meanwhile, sources said that Dhubri, Mancachar and South Salmara sector of Assam-Bangladesh border has emerged as a major smuggling corridor. The river area in the sector – where the Brahmaputra enters Bangladesh – is used to their advantage by the smugglers as the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel face difficulty in properly manning it. Out of a total 263 km of the border that Assam shares with Bangladesh, the Dhubri, Mancachar and South Salmara sector comprises 134 km, of which approximately 44 km is river area.
However, contrary to popular perception, cows from Assam comprise only a minority share of the illegal trade. Majority of the cattle heads are imported from West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. These are brought in by trucks up to the Assam-West Bengal border. Thereafter, the smugglers use village roads, especially those passing through sparsely populated areas, to take the cattle heads to the international border to push them over to the other side.
Sources said old bulls that have outlived their utility, especially in agriculture, are mostly targeted by the illegal cattle traders as these can be bought at cheaper prices. The average farmer in most of the Indian States finds it hard to maintain such cattle heads and therefore sell them off often at throwaway prices to these traders.
The financial transaction between those involved in cattle smuggling on both sides of the international border is mostly done via hawala, though sources point out that other means are also adopted.
Though law enforcers have increased their vigil and are cracking down hard on the illegal trade, the ever-increasing demand for cattle in Bangladesh has ensured there is no decline in cattle smuggling. “There is a huge demand for cattle in Bangladesh both for consumption as beef and in the leather industry there. During Eids, especially Bakr Eid, the demand multiplies. Hence, the smuggling from India,” a source explained.
And the smugglers are also resorting to ingenious ways to hoodwink sentinels on the border like tying cattle heads on to bamboo poles and flinging them across the border by using the fence as a lever or tying these animals to bamboo rafts and throwing them into the river so that these are taken downstream by the Brahmaputra.
On the other hand, the BSF has managed to rescue 36,200 cattle heads from being smuggled across to the neighbouring country in 2016, besides apprehending 89 smugglers, which included four Bangladeshis. From January 1 to June 30 this year, the number of cattle heads recovered by the BSF is 8,900. Besides, 39 smugglers too were nabbed, which include eight Bangladeshis.
Meanwhile, Additional Director General of Police, Special Branch, Pallab Bhattacharya told The Sentinel that the police are aware of the illegal trade. “However, the quantum of trade has come down in the last few years due to our pro-active measures. We have instructed the police to maintain a close vigil so that the illegal trade can be curtailed,” he added.