The pigeon that Indian security forces detained on suspicion of being a Pakistani spy has been released.
The "spy pigeon" was detained on Sunday when it flew down to Manyari village in Hiranagar sector of Kathua district in Jammu and Kashmir. The residents there grew suspicious of the bird because of a pink patch on its body and a metal ring with "code message" attached to one of its legs.
Suspecting the "code message" was part of some spying plan by Pakistan, a resident of the town captured the pigeon and brought it to the local police station.
As the news about the spy pigeon spread on both sides of the Line of control, it caught the attention on the alleged owner of the feathered creature.
Pakistani man says the pigeon is his pet
A person named Habibullah, resident of Bagga-Shakargarh village in Pakistan, which is just 4 km away from the Indian territory, claimed that the pigeon is his bird and its name is Golden Madi.
In an interview to the Pakistani national newspaper, Dawn, Habibullah said that on the occasion of Eid he had released 12-13 pigeons, including Golden Madi. Habibullah said that all his pigeons came back by evening except Madi. Later, he got to know that the pigeon has been captured by Indian security forces on charges of spying.
"Pigeon a 'symbol of peace,' not a spy"
Dismissing any charge of his bird being a spy or pawn for terrorism, Habibullah said that his pigeons are "symbols of peace". "Yes, this is my pet pigeon as it can never be a spy or a terrorist," he told Dawn.
About metal ring with the coded message found on pigeon, Habibullah said that so-called "code message" is his mobile number. He said he put the number on the rings on his pigeons' legs so that he can be contacted in case anyone gets hold of his birds.
"'Code message' is contact number"
"Golden Madi also has a ring attached to her foot with my contact number inscribed on it. All Indian forces have to do is add dialling code 0092 before the number and they can ascertain that she is my pet and not a spy," reported Independent, quoting Habibullah.
Habibullah said he has been keeping pigeons for more than 30 years now and has more than 250 birds. He informed that he trains his birds for local bird competition and has plans to compete this time also.
"We have been training the pigeons for the last one month. I was so sure of winning this competition and prize money with Golden Madi flying."
Omar Abdullah wonders if there was 'prisoner exchange'
Giving a remark with tongue in cheek, former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah wondered if there was "prisoner exchange" when the "spy pigeon" was released.
This is not the first time that a pigeon has been arrested on charges of spying for Pakistan. In 2015, another pigeon was arrested by Indian authorities after locals captured the birds with messages written in Urdu on its feathers, and wire coiled around its leg. The pigeon was x-rayed to test for transmitters, spy camera, but nothing suspicious came up.
The script in Urdu on pigeons' feather allegedly read "Tehsil Shakargarh, district Narowal". Shakargarh is the same place in Pakistan where pigeon flying competition takes place twice a year.