India releases ‘Pakistani spy’ pigeon

In this file photo, a Pakistani caretaker releases racing pigeons from their cage on the final day of the pigeon race national championship in Islamabad on May 31, 2016. (AFP)
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Updated 30 May 2020

India releases ‘Pakistani spy’ pigeon

  • Indian police not sure if the bird flew back to Pakistan or traveled deep inside their country
  • Pakistani owner of the bird says he is happy his pigeon is no longer being interrogated by Indian authorities

NEW DELHI / KARACHI: The government of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir freed a pigeon on Thursday, that had been captured by locals on suspicion of being a “Pakistani spy.”

On Monday, villagers in the Manyari area located on the Indian side of the Working Boundary with Pakistan in the Kathua district of Jammu caught the pigeon, that had been painted pink, with a ring on its left leg that had a “coded” number inscribed on it.

“We set the pigeon free on Thursday from the same spot where it was found,” Kathua’s senior police superintendent, Shailendra Mishra, told Arab News on Friday.

“On Monday, the villagers caught a pigeon who had a ring on one of its legs with a number written on it. The villagers found the pigeon suspicious and informed the police. We took the pigeon to a veterinarian, and then set it free,” Mishra added.

He blamed the media for creating over-inflating the story.

“The media created hype by calling it a spy pigeon,” the police chief said. “I don’t know whether the pigeon went back to Pakistan or traveled deep inside India. However, we released it from the same spot where we had found it.”

Local journalist and Manyari resident, Saravjit Shunty, said such incidents were not new.

“The Manyari area is close to the international border and the villagers have a habit of reporting every incident to the Border Security Force. Since the pigeon was colored and it had a suspicious looking ring with a number inscribed on it, the villagers reported the matter to the force after catching the bird,” Shunty explained.

“I informed the local police chief that a video from the Sakkargarh area from across the border had emerged in which a person was claiming to be the owner of the pigeon,” he said. “The police chief then told us that he had verified all the details and the bird would soon be released.

“Such episodes show the paranoia that defines the relationship between India and Pakistan. It’s really funny that a bird which cannot be confined within traditional international boundaries can become an object of suspicion,” Shunty continued.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani owner of the bird, named Habibullah, told Arab News he was happy that his pigeon was no longer in Indian custody.

“I am very excited that my bird has been released by India. But I will be happier once it flies back and I get to see it. I am also thankful to those who spoke up in my favor,” he said.

Habibullah said that he had released the bird on Eid Al-Fitr, hoping that it would fly around a little before returning to its loft.

However, he inscribed his contact number on the ring around the bird’s leg to make sure that it did not go missing.

“When two days went by and the bird did not return, I knew it was captured by someone who did not want to return it to me,” he told Arab News from his village of Bagga-Shakargarh, located on the Working Boundary with India.

He added that his precautionary measure had worked in the past and his pigeons had been returned each time. However, it was shocking for him to discover that his bird was held by Indians on the other side of the border who were “trying to debrief him as a Pakistani spy.”

Commenting on the development, Dr. Hasan Askari, a Lahore-based security analyst, described the Indian claim as “a very childish act of a narrow-minded ideological government.”

“There is an ultra-nationalist government in place in India which is driven by a narrow-minded ideology,” he said. “Such governments manage to find conspiracy theories in everything.”


Eight monks catch virus at remote Greek Orthodox site

Updated 21 September 2020

Eight monks catch virus at remote Greek Orthodox site

  • Mount Athos, a 1,000-year-old site and one of the Orthodox Church’s most venerated places, has 20 monasteries and almost 1,700 monks
  • The community, known for its austere rules, is almost completely isolated in a mountainous nature reserve in the Macedonia region

ATHENS: Eight monks have tested positive for coronavirus and their monastery in a remote Orthodox Christian community in northern Greece has been quarantined, a Church official said on Monday.
One of the monks was taken to hospital in Thessaloniki in a serious condition, said the official who declined to be named.
It is not the first outbreak at the Mount Athos site — four monks tested positive in March after traveling to Britain but recovered quickly.
Mount Athos, a 1,000-year-old site and one of the Orthodox Church’s most venerated places, has 20 monasteries and almost 1,700 monks.
The community, known for its austere rules, is almost completely isolated in a mountainous nature reserve in the Macedonia region.
The country’s lockdown from March to May hit the Church hard, wrecking its Easter celebrations.
Church leaders disputed some of the science behind the confinement rules — agreeing to halt masses but refusing to ban communion.
Greece has so far registered 338 deaths and more than 15,000 infections from the virus.