They come with the mist.
As the Aman harvesting season ends, sprawling empty fields dominate the landscape. A descending winter brings with it a cold, forcing people indoors.
A vacant landscape and the blanket of the fog act as motivation for the men in the mist. They come and leave, often without being noticed. But sometimes, they rush.
The owners of dairy farms around Chittagong are forced to resist the temptation of their warm blankets as the sky darkens. They stay awake during the cold, keeping vigil so their cattle's aren't stolen during the dead of the night.
Robbers increasingly target cattle farms during the winter. So much so that it has become a common phenomenon.
“Winter is a sleepless season for us as we fear will see more incidents of livestock robbery. So, we are individually tightening the security by employing more staff at our farms”, Nayeem Uddin, general secretary of Chittagong Dairy Farm Association, told The Daily Star.
At least five incidents of robbery had taken place in the last two months in three upazilas of Chittagong, he added.
Sixty cows, worth Tk 1.2 crore, have been taken away in those incidents, he claimed.
“They take the opportunity of winter as fog makes it convenient to steal the livestock. That is why when winter comes, our anxiety runs high”, Nayeem told The Daily Star.
The association sat with Chittagong Metropolitan Commissioner (CMP) Iqbal Bahar seeking remedy in this regard.
One of the victims, Md Imran, hailing from Najumia Haat under Sikarpur Union of Hathazari Upazila, said a group of people pretending to be livestock buyers approached him to negotiate a price for his cows. They promised they would come back again to finalise the purchase.
“The next night, the same group stormed into my farm and took away at least ten cows worth Tk 20 lakhs, holding my staff at gun point”, he recalled.
Imran filed a general diary with Hathazari Police Station in hopes of recovering his cattle.
In another incident Abdul Hakim, resident of Sikolbaha under Patia Upazila told The Daily Star, that on the night of 24 October, his two Australian breed cows worth Tk 5 lakh were stolen.
“I filed a general diary with Patia Police Station but am yet to get back my cows”, he said.
However, after police busted a gang of cattle robbers, there was a lull in robberies. The robbers were picked up from Bashkhali Upazila. They were found to be using a black Hiace and another microbus.
When contacted, Noor E Alam, Police Super of Chittagong district, told The Daily Star that in Chittagong there are two belts where the robbery takes place.
The southern belt includes Raozan and Hathazari while the northern one includes Satkania, Potia, Chondonaish, Anowara and Baskhali Upazila.
“The rise in cattle robbery actually begins when the Aman harvest leaves the paddy fields empty, allowing the robbers to move freely', he said.
They also take the advantage of the scarcity of people in the areas because of the cold, he said, adding police are going to take extra measures to tackle the robbery.
“We already had a meeting over the livestock robbery where we decided to accelerate the patrolling on highway and [start] public awareness programmes”, he added.
Apart from this, police will also check cattle laden vehicles at a strategic point of the highway to contain the robbery.
Mina said they arrested some groups last year and will look for those who are still free.
He advised the farmers to tighten the security around their cattle shed and arrange lighting for it.