Kashmir’s descent into Drugs & Criminalization
Recently, Kashmir valley was shaken by two disturbing news’s- the first one was related to the news of a 10 year old Kashmiri boy being brought by his father to drug de-addiction center in Srinagar for Heroin abuse, which was alarming given the Heroin is an expensive and highly intoxicating and dangerous drug and for a 10 year old child to be using it, shows that Kashmir’s drug addiction problem has reached a critical threshold, wherein a substantial youth population of Kashmir valley is not just dealing with a mere drug addiction problem, it is rather dealing with a widespread percolation of hardcore drugs amongst wide section of Kashmiri population including young children.
Another shocking incidence that rocked Kashmir was the shootout in downtown Srinagar, where a youth got killed in what the police described as “gang war”. It is not clear, what exactly was the motive of the shootout but downtown Srinagar’s own massive drug addiction is suspected to have played some part in this.
These incidences unfortunately do not harbor well for the future of Kashmir valley. The twin monsters of drugs and criminalization have full potential of destabilizing social fabric of small and enclosed Kashmiri society. Couple of years ago, a study report prepared by United Nations had estimated drug addicted population of Kashmir valley to the tune of over 70,000 people out of which 4,000 were Kashmiri women. The drug addicted population in Kashmir valley has since than been estimated to have been increased to about 2.5 Lakhs out of which 20% or about 50,000 are Kashmiri women. The usage of drug is believed to be evenly distributed between rural and urban Kashmir. What is even more concerning is that the consumption of hardcore drugs like Heroin has also substantially increased amongst all age groups and all parts of Kashmir valley.
The neighboring state of Punjab, which also witnessed the similar scale of drug consumption has never emerged out of the economic decline that the decade of separatist violence and subsequent drug addiction caused. Punjab, which used to be one of India’s most economically progressing and developing state with growing industrialization has been beaten now even by its lesser developed cousin state of Haryana in economic development.
Kashmir valley, which has already been ravaged by three decades of violence is perhaps looking at the similar kind of economic stagnation and decline due to collective impact of political instability and increasing drug addiction amongst its young working productive population, which is further made worse by the explosion of criminalization of Kashmiri society, the result of which we saw in “gang war” killing, something that was unheard of in Kashmir.
The source of Kashmir’s ruin lies with a few generations which pushed a previously prosperous and peaceful Kashmir valley and its inhabitants to a dark violent and pessimistic future for their ideological belief. Kashmir valley did not achieve anything that my father’s generation, which is now in its 50s and 60s set out for themselves. All that they managed to do was to facilitate proliferation of guns into Kashmir valley, which never left.
The “gun culture” not only tore apart the social fabric of Kashmir valley but it set out chain of violent events that consumed people of Kashmir valley for next three decades. It is this “gun culture” that gave birth to a rogue, undisciplined generation of Kashmiri youth that eventually gravitated towards religious radicalism, intolerance, violence and ultimately drugs. The current proliferation of criminalization is result of the lawlessness and break down of age-old harmonious social order of Kashmir of which Kashmiri Pundit community was also a part.
Currently the criminalization is restricted to lawless areas of downtown Kashmir, but it may soon spread all over Kashmir valley including smaller towns and villages following the path of the travel of drug addiction. The source of most of hardcore drugs remains Pakistan and Afghanistan across LOC. Heroin addiction already destroyed an entire young generation of Pashtun men in Southern Afghanistan and Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province from where it spread to Pakistani cities like Karachi and now Kashmir valley has also been engulfed in it.
Is there a way out of this conundrum?
I think a lot depends on Kashmiri society’s collective willingness to set their house in order. Rather than living in denial and continuing to pursue lofty goals that have rendered nothing but death and despair, Kashmiri society needs to recognize and acknowledge the problems that the people of Kashmir are confronting. The evils of religious radicalism, hooliganism, indiscipline amongst youth is all related to Kashmiri society’s tacit approval for Kashmir to gravitate towards violent, religiously radical, lawless and rogue society in search for fulfilling a political ideology. This tacit approval has to be taken back.
We must strive to take Kashmir to old glory days of peace, religious tolerance, accommodation and secular values, which ensured Kashmir’s economic prosperity and intellectual growth, especially in decades from 1950s to 1980s, gains of which were all lost after 1990s. It is a choice that the people of Kashmir have to make to further restrict the severe social and economic damage that has been caused to Kashmir valley and its people. It is only because of the lawlessness of “gun culture” that religious radicalism, intolerance, drugs and criminalization were able to take foot hold in all four corners of Kashmir valley. It is important to openly talk about these very serious issues that have very significant repercussions on the future of Kashmir’s next generation.
We cannot allow Kashmir to further slip into dark abyss of despair and hopelessness caused by the evil monsters of drugs, guns and crime, which will consume our future generations. We, as a society need to rebuild the very social foundations of our sacred valley, which was built upon religious tolerance, brotherhood, knowledge, wisdom and intellect. We can still go back to our old glorious days for which we need to strive to work with honesty and integrity, otherwise a very dark future awaits us.
The writer is a Political Leader & is State Secretary of People’s Democratic Front. He can be reached @javedbeigh across Social Media Platforms. [email protected].