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Thieves ‘take away’ goats, sheep in HP!

Archana Phull | Shimla |

Shepherds in Himachal Pradesh are increasingly facing the heat of changing times. The greener pastures are shrinking, water sources depleting and they are losing on their customary rights on grazing lands.

However, what troubles them the most for some years lately is the theft of their sheep and goat allegedly by gangs in the hill state.

“Every now and then, the shepherds find their sheep and goats missing. The thefts occur when they stop over at their points (thikaney) at night after walking day-long with the flock. At times, the shepherds find it difficult to lodge a complaint from the spot. But when they complain at the local thanas, the Police do not co-operate and take it lightly,” said Akshay Jasrotia, state convener of Himachal Van Adhikar Manch.

Jasrotia has been helping Himachal Ghumantu Pashupalak Mahasabha in taking up the issue with authorities for long, but to no avail.

The thieves are allegedly connected to a community in Himachal which slaughters them for meat.

One animal costs Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000. The thieves flee with even 30-40 animals in one go. “The phenomenon of theft has reportedly taken dangerous proportions as the thieves, who are often hired goons, have weapons with them, and they even handle the dogs (with the flock) quietly,” said Bishan Dass, a shepherd.

“We feel insecure when we take our animals for grazing in summers and winters. We can no more taken the women or elderly in the family with us and have to engage labour to accompany us,” said Raj Kumar Bhatt, an office bearer of Shepherds Association in Himachal.

He said several complaints have been lodged in Police thanas for theft of sheep and goat over last some years, but none has been solved.

“The cops make the illiterate shepherds complete complex formalities on the spot, which they are not able to do with flocks. Discouraged by this, many shepherds are forced to leave the traditional occupation and look for petty jobs,” Bhatt held in a representation to the tribal development department, urging for intervention.

“We take action when it comes to notice. Twenty seven persons have been arrested on account of theft of sheep and goat in two years and cases are on. We have been issuing advisories to all district Police chiefs as to how to handle the issue,” said Superintendent of Police, Law and Order at Police headquarters, Khushal Sharma.