Frequent cattle theft has villages scared in Shopian, Pulwama

Frequent cattle theft has villages scared in Shopian, Pulwama
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Burglary victims allege police connivance

SHOPIAN: The unabating theft of domestic animals has become a menace in southern Kashmir’s Shopian district, with hundreds of such cases going unnoticed by the law enforcement authorities, despite the rising numbers of such cases being lodged.
Recently, on the intervening night of Friday and Saturday, January 25-26, last week, unknown persons made off with nine domestic animals including six cows and two sheep from Kunsoo and Thairen villages. The owners were left helpless as they were entirely dependent on the cows for their livelihood. “A cow in a rural area is considered a valuable animal as it produces the milk a family would need for their kitchen purposes while they might sell the rest to the nearest shopkeeper. But after 2016, the cases of animal thefts have increased, and on every second or third day we hear of another case of domestic animal theft,” said Shakir Ahmad Kumar, a local from Pinjora area, whose cow was stolen by thieves last year.
People whose animals were stolen in the recent past said that the theives always strike during the night when the owners would be in deep sleep. “They know about the animals as there are cows of different breeds; some give more than 10 litres of milk and some 20. What they choose is the good and healthy cow which fetches them good returns,” said Nasir Ahmad, a villager from Trenz, adding that people are clueless about where those animals go after the thefts. People in the area believe that the animals are being lifted to other districts so they are not identified when the owners go in search of them.
Feeroz Ahmad Hajam was another victim of these robberies: three of his cows were stolen days after the November 3 snowfall. Feeroz, according to locals, is a poor lad who had three cows that enabled him to make ends meet for his family. Feeroz said that he used social media platforms and pleaded with the robbers to give him at least one cow back, but received no response. “After two months of search, I found nothing. My neighbour, whose cow was also stolen on the same night, lodged a report in the police station, but since then no trace of our animals or of the thieves was found by the authorities,” he said.
Last year, on July 15, domestic animals, including milking cows and expectant cows, were stolen on a single night from Trenz, Molu and Mohanpora villages. “The dogs there used to bark all night and sometimes there would be forces movement. Nobody dares to go outside and check his cowshed because of the apprehension of being caught by the forces or of getting shot for being a militant or an informer,” one of the villagers from Molu area said.
Many of the people whose animals were stolen also said that the thieves “get impunity from the law-enforcing authorities (police). We never heard that Shopian police cracked any such robbery; that gives us a clue that the police give them a safe way to roam and steal animals,” one of the cow owners said.
Not only in Shopian, the theft of domestic animals is also a common menace in Pulwama district. In the month of December last year, many animals were stolen from Litter area of the district. Locals informed that on December 21, as many as 10 animals were stolen in the night from Yader locality of the Litter belt and, in the same month, five cows were stolen from Tahab village.
Villagers said that the thieves, with the connivance of locals, left the village with other property that included Aadhaar cards. These were later retrieved and handed over to the police, but till date the villagers have seen no further action from them. “People are scared of thieves here. Some years ago, one of the villagers from Chakura headed a drive to catch the burglars. They were caught, but days after the drive, the whole of the apple orchard of the said person was chopped down by unknown persons,” said Tariq Rasool, one of the villagers, who added that the burglars tuned out to be from Ganderbal district and their vehicle was caught by Tahab village locals.
Senior Superintendent of Police Shopian Sandeep Choudary didn’t respond to repeated calls and messages from this reporter.