Holy Cow, New Indo-Pak Niggle11 July 2011
The Telegraph (Kolkata)
New Delhi: India and Pakistan always seemed likely to go on discussing Kashmir till the cows come home. Now the neighbours may make it official policy. For, infiltration across the Line of Control (LoC) became cattle class last month with more than a hundred cows, bulls and yaks ambling across to the Pakistani side. Government sources said New Delhi could now take the bull by the horns and make the animals’ return a part of the talks agenda with Islamabad this month. Stray incidents of cattle, sheep or other livestock crossing the frontier aren’t new for farmers on either side. But on June 20, it became a serious livelihood issue in north Kashmir’s Gurez valley when 107 heads of cattle hoofed it to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The farmers of Boduaab, Malangpora, Angaikot and Dander villages have written to the Centre, via their district administration, to take the matter up with Pakistan. If there can be a mechanism to identify each other’s nationals and send them back, why can’t there be a similar one for cattle, the farmers want to know. They have also argued that rearing livestock has become their main source of livelihood because the overwhelming presence of the army hinders them from tilling their fertile farmland. The combined population of the four villages is 30,000, while nearly 26,000 troops of the 28th Infantry Division and an artillery brigade guard the area. Yet, after the cattle sneaked across outwitting all this security, the army apparently added insult to the farmers’ injury. The farmers allege that the jawans at the army posts shooed them away, saying they weren’t there to guard animals. The villagers first took the matter up with local military and police authorities, asking that the army organise a flag meeting with its Pakistani counterpart to request the return of the cattle. Now they have approached the home and foreign ministries. Sympathising with the farmers, a central government official said: “Livestock from the other side too strays into India. The farmers usually try to push the animals back knowing how precious they are to their brethren on the other side, but this isn’t always possible.” If not pushed back, the “infiltrated” cattle are auctioned at the local market. The Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries met last month in Islamabad to discuss, among other things, the Kashmir dispute. The two bureaucrats are scheduled to meet again this month before the two foreign ministers meet in New Delhi in the last week of July. Government sources said the two sides might be able to reach an informal understanding to request their respective administrations to find a way of solving this problem.