Don’t let them in

364

Mian Tufail

EVEN as the political situation in Jammu and Kashmir stabilises after three decades of bloodshed, the UT is tumbling under drugs and narco-terrorism. Nestled in the most northern part of India and surrounded by the Golden Crescent, it is actually central to the drug producing regions including Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The permeable borders of Jammu and Kashmir with the state of Pakistan make the region vulnerable to infiltration of drugs and illicit trade.

After the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K, the dance of guns at the behest of Pakistan has become silent. Seeing the region treading towards peace and stability, Pakistan has now resorted to drug trafficking, quite obviously aiming to destroy the youth of J&K. The J&K police that stand at the forefront to demolish the drug trafficking network, see it as the biggest challenge in the present times.

The infiltration of narcotics is rampant in J&K and is easily available in both rural and urban areas. As a consequence, J&K is turning into the ‘drug capital of India’.

According to the Indian Parliament Panel report of this month, there are an estimated 13.50 lakh drug users in Jammu and Kashmir and they are in the age group of 18 to 75 years. Additionally, the region’s proximity to the Golden Crescent and a conducive environment for instability, makes J&K a haven for criminals and terrorists for drug trade.

It has remained a policy with Pakistan to stir trouble in the border states of India. Earlier, Pakistan used the soil of Punjab for drug trafficking which left the youth of the state prone to substance abuse. Now, Pakistan has moved towards Kashmir and here, they have established a huge network for illicit trade. A drug-addict loses his cognitive ability and shackles himself in the chain of narco-abuse. He turns a pawn in the hands of others and a threat to the society.

Pertinently, Kashmir Central, in the past, has covered a number of stories on narco-terrorism and it has reported the role of Pakistan in order to push the youth of J&K to the wall. The endeavour has been to put forth the real picture of drug abuse going on in the Valley.

Not too long back, Waseem Ahmad (name changed), 28, of Sopore died in a miserable condition under the influence of drugs. The news of this charming man, known for his generosity, shocked the whole town when the cause of his death spread.

When KC interviewed his acquaintances, a friend shared a horrible reality of deep substance abuse in the area.

One of his friends said, “Drug trade is rampant here. You will feel there is no availability of drugs but then narcotics are available throughout and the network is working day in and day out to keep the flow of drugs on. Young boys and girls get badly trapped in drugs and in the absence of drug de-addiction centres, there is minimal hope of them returning to a normal life”.

With such rampant abuse, the youth are gullible to terrorist activities and are a threat to the fabric of our society. Drugs are silently killing the soul and cultural ethos of Jammu and Kashmir.

Western countries have been seeing a massive and a steep rise in shootouts and terrorist activities where the accused have been under the influence of drugs. J&K is prone to Pakistan backed proxy terrorism which makes the region vulnerable to narco-terrorism. After the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the opium has been easily accessible to the Pakistan-based terrorist groups in Kabul. Afghanistan is one of the largest opium drug producers in the world.

According to the data provided by the UNODC, drug production in Afghanistan rose by 38% in 2021. Afghanistan transports illegal drugs via India and from here they reach other international borders. The ISI is a master in exploiting the same to keep their guns blazing in J&K after their misadventure of armed terrorism.

Baramulla, a border district of North Kashmir, has witnessed a massive arrest of drug peddlers. Some 312 peddlers were arrested in just a couple of weeks. As per the police, Pakistan-based handlers – under some conspiracy – are using smugglers to push narcotics into Jammu and Kashmir to get the younger generation addicted to drugs.

SSP BARAMULLA AMOD KUMAR NAGPURE

Senior Superintendent of Police from Baramulla, Amod Ashok Nagpuri says, “Baramulla is a border district and cross-border drug and weapon smuggling is a big challenge for us. Over the last six months, the Baramulla police have registered 187 FIRs under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.”

“Around 284 drug peddlers were arrested and another 34 notorious peddlers booked under PIT NDPS/PSA. In total, 318 drug peddlers have been arrested so far, and law is taking its own course. The focus of this drive is to crack down on the drug culture in Baramulla district and our endeavour is to make Baramulla a drug-free district,” says the SSP.

Separatists and terror groups in Kashmir employ various means to gather funds for separatist and terror activities. Some of these activities include buying and selling of properties, narco trade business, and operating hawala rackets. A number of ‘influenced’ Kashmiris are working across the world to fund hawala money in Kashmir in order to reignite separatism and terrorism in the Valley.

We must bear in mind that the J&K police is not solely duty bound to contain drug abuse in the Valley. Social activists, NGOs, educational institutions, religious and political leaders must come forward and share their collective responsibility.

The J&K police also need to up their intelligence and infrastructure to arrest the source of drug trade in J&K. Creating a working synergy between Kashmir’s traditional and formal social control system can go a long way in addressing the drug menace.

In fact, senior journalist and author Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, recently tweeted a very crisp one, talking of the exact situation and the danger staring Kashmir in its face. He tweeted: “After becoming ‘Pakistan’, is Kashmir now becoming Afghanistan? Kya ankareeb har ghar sé awaaz aayegi “injection, injection, injection…”? In March 2022 – March 2023, as many as 41,110 patients visited SMHS Hospital’s Drug De-addiction Centre, one patient every 12 minutes. Over this period, ATFs in 5 districts of Bandipora, Budgam, Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama treated 6,000 more patients. 240 kg of heroin seized, 2,756 drug peddlers arrested, 1850 FIRs filed in 2022 alone. Is it ‘Udta Kashmir’ after ‘Udta Punjab’? Where is the substance coming from? Why are FIRs & arrests failing to become a deterrent? Do the system insiders have a stake in it or this pandemic is going exponential and getting beyond everyone’s control? Because of the civil society’s failure or the skyrocketting dividends for traders and peddlers?”

A very telling remark and something needs to be done quickly, otherwise, quite literally Udta Kashmir, along the lines of Udta Punjab, will be a reality soon and security agencies will have a tough task of cleansing the interiors of Jammu and Kashmir of narco-terrorism.

 

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