OPINION

Drug menace – silence is to be broken

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Not a single day passes in Jammu and Kashmir without a few drug-traffickers being arrested and contraband substances seized. Brown Sugar, Heroin, ‘Charas’ -- these figure in every evening bulletin of J&K Police. Though there are no follow-up details available, nevertheless arrests are made and made very frequently.

Drug abuse and drug trafficking has reached dangerous heights. According to the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), there are about 70,000 substance abusers present in the Valley, out of which 31 percent are women.

And according to addiction data published by the Government Psychiatric Hospital, Srinagar, around 90 percent drug abusers belong to the age group of 17-35.

Though the menace is dangerously engulfing the state, the society as a whole including political leadership, separatists as well as unionists, still seem unconcerned. Though of late some voices have expressed concern about the menace, but it is too little and too late!

It is no secret that several areas in south Kashmir are notorious for drug produce. ‘Bhang’ is grown in these areas openly and the drug trade is a common knowledge. Every year, as the ‘bhang’ crop starts growing, police and excise sleuths conduct a few raids in some areas, destroy the crop on few hundred kanals of land and that is all. Never ever is this menace taken head on. No serious efforts were ever made to stop the cultivation of ‘bhang’. Actually there is lots of money in the business and that is why despite production and processing of ‘bhang’ and its subsequent trade as ‘charas’ (cannabis) being an unfortunate reality, even the militant groups haven’t ever tried to interfere with this trade.

Another vital link of drug trafficking – its cross-LoC and cross border links – are rarely spoken about. Connection of drugs and guns either is not being discussed. Data suggests that during past few years huge consignments of drugs, fake Indian currency notes (FICN) and arms and ammunition being smuggled from across the LoC and IB were seized.

To mention a few, Brown Sugar (114 packets) were recovered from a truck engaged in cross-LoC trade in January 2014. In February 2017, big consignment of weapons including one pistol, 13 hand grenades and 4 AK-47 magazines and 120 rounds of AK 47 were recovered from a Pakistan-administered-Kashmir (PaK) based truck at TFC, Salamabad in Uri.

In May 2019, 12 kg of Heroin and around 12 lakhs of FICN were recovered from Mendhar in  Poonch. Earlier, in the same area, 10 lakhs of FICN and 2 kg Heroin was seized in March. 13 kg Heroin and Brown Sugar were seized in Jammu in July 2019.

These are just a few examples to hint towards the graveness of the menace. It is a deadly combination of drugs, arms and fake currency. Not that all the drugs are intended to be spread in J&K, but this state is also being used as a transit route to reach to the mainland India with this poison. And certainly J&K too has started feeling the pain of being the transit route.

While we talk about ‘Bangh’ cultivation in parts of south Kashmir, questions should be raised about the role of police and other concerned government agencies. Similarly, when it comes to cross-LoC and IB drug-trafficking, one should not shut one’s eyes. These drugs are being pumped in by the neghbouring country and people need to speak about it too.

While international and domestic laws should be so legislated that they are in sync and coherence so as to act as a real deterrent for the drug traffickers, Kashmiris should wake up to this great danger that is eating into the very vitals of the society.  It may suit monetary interests of some unscrupulous people in police and other concerned agencies domestically; it may suit broader interests of Pakistan, but in no way is it in the interests of people of Jammu and Kashmir.

It is heartening to note that of late senior separatist leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Geelani too have spoken about the issue but mere statements won’t help to fight the menace. Unless those who choreograph and control this trade are identified, named and shamed, this dangerous trend is going to stop nowhere.

It is responsibility of one and all -- of the civil society, of religious leaders, political leaders, government agencies and also the media to take this issue head-on.

One thing is to be made clear that unless you look at the menace in totality, you can’t deal with it. Being vocal on one aspect and maintaining silence on the other will only help the perpetrators of this crime.

 

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