Down with the narco nexus
by Bisma Nazir
Smuggling of narcotics has resumed along the LoC and the international border, thanks to the building of a strong network, or what we call an organised syndicate. And what’s worse – the traffickers and the cops have a dangerous nexus.
NARCOTIC smuggling and narco-terrorism are fast spreading tentacles in Kashmir. Slowly but surely the Valley seems to be becoming a part of the international narco syndicate. It’s almost as if Kashmir is following the Punjab model, thanks to the involvement of some of the police in the drug nexus. The recent seizure of 11 kg heroin by the Srinagar police under the jurisdiction of Police Station, Rajbagh, has exposed the nexus of traffickers with cops. The investigations into this case have revealed involvement of three cops including a CRPF jawan and two personnel of the Jammu and Kashmir police. This April 6 incident
has brought to the fore the vulnerability of cops in the quest for easy and quick money.
The story goes thus:
On April 6, 2023, the Srinagar police, following credible inputs, raided a house in the Rajbagh locality, arresting two persons with 11.08 kg of heroin worth Rs 70 crore in the international market and Rs 11,82, 500 cash in their possession. Two cross-border narco smugglers – namely Sajad Badana of Tanghdar and Zaheer Tanch of Karnah Kupwara – when arrested by the Srinagar police, made way for some startling revelations. Sajad
belongs to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). The consignment was delivered by one Nazir Ahmad from across the border, to one Rashid Kohli of Karnah, on March 25. Nazir received the consignment from his handler in Pakistan, though it came all along from Afghanistan. Rashid handed over the consignment to the CRPF jawan named Sajad Badana who owns a Scorpio. Sajad dumped the consignment in the reserve tyre of his car and took it to Srinagar. He was stopped at many points on his way to Srinagar but every time, managed to evade frisking by showing his I-card. Sajad had a rented accommodation at Rajbagh. He reached his place in the evening of April 5 and was supposed to hand over the consignment to one Shabir Ahmad Wani of Saidapora Eidgah in Srinagar, who happens
to be the head constable with the Jammu and Kashmir Police, and Gairat Ali of Karna, again a selection grade constable with Jammu and Kashmir Police. Both the personnel are serving as personal security officials with a police officer of SP rank and who is presently serving as Deputy Commandant in the Armed Police Battalion. The duo had earlier also received a consignment of 2 kgs. However, it was not immediately known as to where the police
personnel were supposed to deliver the consignment.
The dangerous machinations
The larger point to discuss here is the analogy and the definite pattern in which the narcotic syndicate operates in Kashmir. It is a globally known tactic to use men in uniform for narco-trafficking which minimises the chances of seizure to a great extent. Cops, lured for easy money, take advantage of their identity, which makes them less susceptible to
frisking and scrutiny. Now, the challenge to enforce a whip on the serving cops, is great. Since narco-trafficking poses greater threat to both peace and stability and to the society,
the security agencies are walking a tight-rope for two reasons. One; since there is no stiff resistance to drug trafficking from the society, wiping out the network becomes difficult. Perhaps the Kashmir society is yet to realise the potential dangers of drug
trafficking and there is less awareness among the masses about the menace. The security agencies face a challenge in identifying the culprits. As of now, there is more focus on de-addiction of petty drug users. Narco-terrorism is yet to be recognised as a potential threat to the society. Secondly, the involvement of cops in trafficking poses a greater challenge and there is no method or mechanism readily available to identify the black sheep within
the belt force. Why? Well the observation is very disturbing. The trend of involvement of cops in narco-trafficking or narco-terrorism actually started from the higher ranks. There are many pockets across the length and breadth of the Kashmir valley where cannabis cultivation is a normal thing. The cultivation happens right under the nose of police
officers serving in these areas. In the months of June and July the police stations concerned, accompanied by revenue officials and junior magistrates, usually run a drive to destroy cannabis cultivation. However, it is an established fact that the drive is just an
eyewash. The cultivation happens non-stop. Cannabis is produced in large quantities in these areas and the police officers, at the local level, get their due share. Even after the cultivation, raids are conducted under pressure from the higher ups but again, there is always a partnership plan in place. Seize a larger consignment, show a little of it in the records, sell back your share much below the market value to the producer. This culture is as old as the cultivation of cannabis in Kashmir. It has never been a secret and the subordinate staff is always in the know of things. It is from here they get emboldened
to go for adventures in the quest for easy money.
Where complacence kills…
The smuggling has its origin right at the inception of militancy in Kashmir. Cross-border smuggling and infiltration go hand in hand. The tendency among the security czars to become complacent and look at Kashmir as a playfield rather than as a battleground,
has played a big role in allowing the situation in the Kashmir Valley to dither and deteriorate for 30 long years. Vested interests among a section of people got them into secret deals and pacts with the enemy forces. In the frontier district of Kupwara in North
Kashmir, it is commonly said – ‘for money, the security forces manning the Line of Control (LoC) would kill five and allow five terrorists to sneak in to our side. This was a common practice in the initial phase of militancy in Kashmir’. The situation, however, changed fast after the military leadership got to know about such practices. But sometimes, security agencies indulge in blame games accusing each other of being complacent. Not so recently, a senior police officer was at loggerheads with an army officer alleging that some part of weapons and narcotics dropped along the LoC by Pakistan using drones is left for the terrorists. This is how the jawans usually get into the business of double dealing.
Now look at another side of the story. After the cross LoC trade was started between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad through Salamabad in Uri in North Kashmir and Chikandabad in Poonch, South of Pirpanchal range, the credible reports of smuggling drugs and weapons under the garb of legitimate transportation of goods between two parts of Jammu and Kashmir were received by the security agencies. The trade was temporarily suspended on
more than one occasion after seizure of weapons and narcotics at both the points. Investigations revealed that some civil and police officers were in the know of the things. Now see, crackdown on terror financing by NIA, ED and CBI has been a major shot in the arm for the security forces. Officials believe that one of the reasons why stone-pelting has stopped almost completely is that the funding that fuelled it has dried. But stone-pelting was also curbed by stringent policing to identify and book the key instigators. NIA crackdown on terror sponsors and financers has been very effective as they are in
crosshairs of the agency. The formation of the Terror Monitoring Group comprising the Income Tax Department, Enforcement Directorate, CBI, JKP, Research and Analysis Wing, and Intelligence Bureau has allowed these agencies to work in tandem against the terror finance networks. The Anti-Corruption Bureau has also become very active in countering terror finance (CFT) operations. The authorities appear to have finally recognised the
importance of dismantling the ecosystem that sustains terrorism, both ideologically and
financially. Even as the crackdown on money laundering and terror finance continues, the punitive action needs to be scaled up significantly. However, this epidemic of narcotics has posed a greater challenge to the security. It is certainly helping in refuelling terrorism. After the suspension of cross-LoC trade, drug smuggling across the LoC had almost stopped.
Most drugs found here – heroin, hashish and opium were being smuggled through the Punjab border and then transported into the Valley. However, following the building of a network, or an organised syndicate, the smuggling has resumed along the LoC and the international border.