Slowly, inexorably, buffaloes always come home.
It is almost politically incorrect to speak of India’s cow belt these days but after the absurd police dragnet laid out for Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan’s barnyard assets in Rampur, “buffalo belt” may gain traction. India’s most placid and tractable mammal has effortlessly exercised the imagination, the government, the police, the media, everything and everybody except Azam Khan himself, who has drily thanked the press for the free publicity.
Ritual demands for police reforms are in the air, but spare a thought for buffaloes, whose nobility lies in slowness, even immobility, and who are so reliably still that people use them as landmarks — turn left at the red light, then right at the eight buffaloes. They are always there to serve the public.
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Even those sections of the public that would steal them from Azam Khan and lead them into strange farmyards. A buffalo-hunt was unleashed, their retreating hoofprints were sniffed by police dogs. The media treated them as a huge black joke. The BJP made political capital, protesting that while the police were unleashed in UP over seven VIP buffaloes, the cattle trade at the Bangladesh border was going unpunished.
Not quite. Three policemen were suspended in UP, collateral damage of the buffalo hunt. But in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal, four cattle smugglers were burned alive by a rival gang the very next day. A primordially gruesome incident, but perhaps a moral tale does not hang therein, or even in UP. We can argue the question of crime and punishment until the cows, er, the buffaloes come home. Which they do quite reliably every evening, with absolutely no assistance from the police. Even in Rampur, we are sure.