A FIERCE wild boar war is raging between India and Pakistan in the Jammu region at a time when over a million of their soldiers are massed along the frontier, ready for battle.
Military officials said that wild boar that rip up ready-to-harvest fields and wreak havoc on farmlands in the border area are the latest "weapon" in Pakistan's arsenal to harass its larger, neighbour.
They said Pakistani soldiers and Border Rangers, who man the frontier, rounded up wild boars in the forests on their side of the border and chased them into Indian territory. "The animals come in the night and attack the fields till dawn," said Mukhtiar Singh, a farmer in the Sambha region, some 50 km from Jammu. (Sambha and the adjoining areas are where India and Pakistan fought fierce tank battles in two of their three wars and where the two armies have been exchanging heavy artillery and mortar fire recently.)
Hunting in groups of 30 or 50, the boars roll around in wheat and rice fields, ruining the crop, he added. The frontier farmers have retaliated, albeit unsuccessfully, by planting "flour balls" - bits of explosives wrapped in flour and connected by a wire to a crude detonator - in their fields. The boars bite into the explosive bait, which blows away their snouts. This, instead of scaring them away, makes them more ferocious.
Nihal Singh and three fellow farmers, sighting one such wounded animal along the border recently, tried to kill it. But the enraged animal chased them across rice fields. They managed to escape by clambering up trees or locking themselves inside farm sheds. A not-so-fortunate farmer had his thigh ripped out a few nights later by a wily boar, which sneaked up on him as he worked his field.
Farmers then began to lay live electric wires across their fields at night. This stunned the raiding animals for a while. But the farmers could resort to this measure only sparingly as it was dangerous and also because power invariably was in short supply. "The boar invasion is a perennial menace," a Border Security Force (BSF) officer in the Sambha region said, adding that in this "seesaw battle there are no victors".
India, unlike Pakistan, allows farmers to cultivate their land contiguous to the border. Ringed by BSF personnel, scores of farmers work their fields until sundown, careful not to stray into the narrow patch of no-man's land that separates the two countries.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has not cut down its forest where wild boars proliferate. Fearing an Indian military attack, it has reportedly built well-fortified bunkers inside the forest. And ever since the two armies mobilised their forces last December, Pakistan has moved up its armoured columns around the periphery of the jungle.
Ironically, when the tension along the border was not so high, farmers would occasionally shout across to the Pakistani Rangers to chase some wild boars into the Indian side for hunting. In return, they would shoo Nilgai (the Indian antelope) and deer across for the Rangers to hunt down. The Nilgai is a highly destructive animal. Farmers are always hard-pressed to find ways to rid themselves of it.
The boar onslaught has led to a sharp decline in crop yield. "We get around 40 kg of wheat less per acre," laments Paras Ram of Manihari.