Three policemen in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have been suspended after seven buffaloes owned by a powerful minister went missing, reports in Indian newspapers say.

The buffaloes were reportedly stolen from the farm house of Urban Development Minister Azam Khan a few days ago and were found after a massive police hunt, reports said on Monday.

Three policemen who were supposed to be guarding the farmhouse have been suspended for “dereliction of duty”.

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The buffalo-thieves had to cut open thick iron chains to spirit away the animals, reports said.

The police, led by top district police official Sadhna Goswami, used highly-trained sniffer dogs and combed large swathes of agricultural land before discovering the buffaloes. 

A distraught Khan also scanned the CCTV footage of slaughter houses in the region, reports said.

The massive police operation and its success, meanwhile, sparked disparaging comments from people on social media.

"That day is not far when the UP Government will offer Z category security to buffaloes whilst human beings die in riots and cold waves," reports said, quoting media personality Suhel Seth’s tweet.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s spokesman Siddharth Nath Singh was quoted as saying, “The police take strict action and officers are suspended if Azam Khan's buffalo is stolen but no action is taken when women are raped and incidents of communal violence take place in Uttar Pradesh."

The buffaloes’ “missing and search” operation is the latest controversy to affect the credibility of the Samajwadi Party-led Uttar Pradesh state government. 

A few weeks ago,  the state government came under fire from the media and opposition parties for hosting a massive celebration attended by top film stars even as scores of people affected by the Muzaffarnagar riots were dying of cold and suffering from the absence of relief in their makeshift camps nearby.

Source: Al Jazeera