An amphibian’s mating call — or a missed call, rather — is a polyphonic tool for cattle smugglers along Assam’s river-ruled border with Bangladesh.
The modus operandi is simple. While Border Security Force (BSF) personnel keep vigil along the border, scouts of cattle smugglers watch their movement. These scouts give missed croaky calls to their bosses to signal when the coast is clear. Simulated frog calls are likewise beeped if a mission needs to be aborted.
BSF officials in western Assam’s Dhubri sector were oblivious of the amphibious trick until they caught a smuggler, Razzak Ali, this month. A frog suddenly croaked while Ali was being frisked, and it didn’t take long for the officials to locate the source of the mating call — a high-end handset in his possession. They also found out Ali was using a Bangladeshi Grameen Phone SIM card like most cross-border criminals.
The ringtone ruse came to light as Assam forest minister Rockybul Hussain admitted in the assembly that cattle smuggling was on the rise. “From 2001 to June this year, BSF apprehended 28,813 cattle along Dhubri. We have asked district officials to step up a special drive besides imposing restrictions on movement along the border from dusk to dawn,” he said.
However, truckloads of cattle, mostly from north India, pass easily through the Sagolia check-gate on the Assam-West Bengal border. The cattle are loaded on to boats on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries or swum across shallow water bodies by smugglers snorkeling with bamboo pipes. Sometimes, nails are hammered into the animals’ rumps to make them stampede across the border/
Each cattle head fetches up to Rs 12,000 in Bangladesh, from where the beef is packaged primarily for export to West Asia while the hides go to tanneries near the international border.