Since the Uri attack, the security forces say they have foiled several infiltration attempts across the border in Jammu and Kashmir. At least one “catch” is cooling its heels in Bamial police custody in Pathankot, Punjab — a pigeon, with “suspected Pakistani links”.
There is no way to know if the bird flew in from across the border. It was an “alert” villager called Satinder who brought it in on October 1, after noticing a message in Urdu tied to its legs. The BSF decided not to take a chance after reading the message — ‘Modi Ji we are not the same as were in 71 — Jaish-e-Mohammad’ — and handed it to the police.
“We have mentioned in the daily duty register that this pigeon was caught by the BSF and a message in Urdu was found attached to its feet,” says Inspector Dalip Kumar, assigned to look after the bird at the Bamian police outpost.
In the absence of instructions from above, including the government, the police officers have bought a “special cage” worth Rs 300 to keep the bird. The pigeon is being fed bajra and water, informs Kumar, adding that while similar “suspicious” birds have been held near the border earlier, it is their first such case.
Says Kuldeep Singh, DSP Pathankot (Rural), “We will see what can be done next for this pigeon. The media has gone crazy asking questions about this catch. We are troubled by some self-styled reports on the bird saying it would be freed… So far we have no plans to release the pigeon.”
On Friday, Inspector Kumar carried the pigeon on a bus to the Animal Husbandry Hospital in Gurdaspur, 35 km away, for scanning — the nearest place with the facility. “We wanted to scan him to know if someone had hidden a SIM card or other material inside him,” says Kumar. “Everyone in the bus was interested in him. The pigeon has become famous.”
However, the inspector had to return disappointed as the scanning machine was not working.
An inspector with the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Amritsar, Ashok Joshi, says it is not that easy to get pigeons to carry messages. “You have to travel yourself with the pigeon to the place where you want him to carry the message. Once a pigeon is trained, it can guide other pigeons to a specific place. But due to the complexity of the Indo-Pak border, it is quite difficult to train a pigeon to go across the border to a specific place. It is possible that none of the pigeons caught on the border is trained.”
Moreover, Joshi adds, pigeons can “get confused about the path if caught in bad weather or if they go too far from their area”. Explaining how it may have got caught, he adds, “If a pigeon is too tired after a long flight, it would not fly away when a human comes near.”
Kumar is prepared for the long haul. “We have to take care of this pigeon till the investigations are over,” says the Inspector.
However, should the pigeon be “found guilty of carrying the message from Pakistan”, he admits, he has no idea what would happen to it.