The Telegraph
Wednesday , October 12 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Headache with a hump for customs

Jaipur, Oct. 11: For customs officials used to dealing with Cartier jewellery and Rolex watches, their latest catch may appear a little less refined and even a bit smelly.

It’s a camel that two Pakistani men apparently came riding as they tried to sneak into Rajasthan, before being shot dead by the BSF’s 171 Battalion at Azad outpost, Barmer.

The sturdy animal has survived its bullet injury, though. After release from its current home, a makeshift veterinary hospital in Barmer, it will be headed straight to a customs shed to present its officials a headache with a hump, BSF sources said.

It’s unclear who the intruders were but arms smugglers from Pakistan are known to carry out their cross-border trade with the help of camels. The so-called “ship of the desert” can travel long distances across the scorching sand without food or water, carrying heavy loads.

Their size may prevent them from going through the eye of the needle, as has been known since biblical times, but breaching the heavily fenced border apparently comes easier. The high-speed desert winds often shift the sand dunes, which blow over or under the fence, creating enough space for intruders to make their way through.

It was the floodlights that were the intruders’ undoing on September 30, BSF inspector-general A.K. Sinha said. A sentry spotted them around 1.30am and they were met with a hail of bullets. The intruders were in their 30s, and were carrying mobile phones, silk threads, four English and two Urdu newspapers, and cigarettes.

Since Pakistan has refused to acknowledge them as its citizens, the injured camel will have to become customs property once it is fully fit. The customs, Sinha said, is likely to auction the camel off.

Pakistan, though, may come to rue the loss of the animal. According to The Nation newspaper, Pakistan is facing an acute shortage of camels with their numbers dwindling in the past two decades from over 10 lakh to around 7 lakh.

One of the causes the paper identified was camel-racing in the Gulf, for which Pakistani camels are in high demand. Another is the popularity of camel milk there.

Even camel meat is popular among the desert nomads in Pakistan’s Cholistan. The camel may not mind being in Indian hands, after all.

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