Operation Brahmaputra: Tracking cow smuggling on India-Bangladesh riverine border
Brahmaputra river, one of the widest and wildest trans-boundary rivers that flows through India, is often a cause of distress for people living on its bank. The river that flows as wide as 10 kilometres in some parts of Assam has become a boon for cow smugglers. As the cows are sold at much higher price in Bangladesh than in West Bengal and Assam, the Assam-Bangladesh and West Bengal-Bangladesh borders are widely used to smuggle cows. There have often been accusations of complicity against Border Security Force or BSF but the innovative ways of smugglers make it extremely difficult for security forces to stop such illegal activity.
Dhubri, a district in Assam situated on the banks of mighty Brahmaputra, has become the Ground Zero of cattle smuggling with cow smugglers using the terrain to their advantage.
Intelligence Wing of BSF received information that cattle smugglers in India use code-words to communicate with their counterparts in Bangladesh. In India, smugglers tie animals on banana trunk and leave them on the mercy of flowing river. On the other side of the river, Bangladeshi smugglers catch the animals and sell them in local markets at higher prices. Couriers in India receive hefty amount just for bringing the cattle to the banks of river, tying them to the trunk and leave them in water.
Boats are also used to smuggle cattle. Cows and calves are inhumanly stuffed inside the boat and covered to hide them from the plain sight. Boats are preferred mode of transport for smugglers but when patrolling intensifies, they just tie cows together and leave them in river on the mercy of water flow.
Besides Brahmaputra, its tributary Kaljani River is also used for cattle smuggling. India TV reached Dhumri to report from the ground on how cow smuggling is done on the border. India TV’s camera caught many shocking images of cow smuggling.
BSF, which guards the India-Bangladesh border, faces many challenges, chief among them the riverine border. For the paramilitary force, guarding fenced border is comparatively easier than guarding open riverine border, the main route for cow smugglers. However, since last couple of years, the BSF has intensified its efforts to stop cow smuggling on the border and increased patrolling in Brahmaputra river.
Only last year, the BSF seized nearly 38,000 cattle from smugglers. This month alone, they have seized 3,000 animals. To avoid BSF's patrolling parties, smugglers use darkness to their advantage and carry out their illegal activities at night.
Talking to India TV, BSF Commandant Rajiv Dua said fencing is not possible on the riverine border which is spread over 40 kilometers and smugglers take advantage of the factor.
"Brahmaputra is spread across over 40 kms and fencing is not possible due to the river. But there is deliberation on very level and we are heading towards finding a technological solution. Soon, we will start using high-end gadgets," Dua said outside a BSF-run cow shelter.
The BSF is also coordinating with local authorities to prevent cattle smuggling as the roads near the river bank also needs patrolling to prevent the smuggling.