Kashmir: A new haven for Narcotics and Arms

Beneath the political turmoil in Kashmir, the narco smuggling networks is fast growing. How are these drugs supply chains kept alive in Kashmir?

Background 

Kashmir has been through the two decades of turmoil that resulted in an increase of psychiatric illness and psychosocial disturbances. A number of psychiatric problems have emerged like Depression, OCD, PTSD, Drug Addiction, etc. As long as the problem of drug addiction in Kashmir is concerned it has observed that this conflict-ridden region has a tremendous rise in substance abusers over the past decade. United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) reported that around 70000 people are drug addicts in the Kashmir valley alone among which 4000 are females. Several studies conducted in the valley revealed that youth particularly between the age group of 17-30 involved in this menace of drug addiction.

The common Substance used by Drug Addicts in Kashmir are Cannabis, Brown Sugar, Heroine, SP tablets, Anxit, Alprax, Inhalants like Fevicol, SR solution, Thinner, Shoe Polish, Paint varnish and dirty socks are used as substances. The alarming rate of this menace in Kashmir leads the academicians and experts to comment that “We have lost one generation to bullets and we may lose another generation to drugs”.

Analysis

In the last 18 months, more than 80 per cent of drugs seized in Jammu and Kashmir were smuggled in from Pakistan, also for narco-terrorism. Only 20 to 25 per cent of drugs being smuggled into J&K came from Punjab, while the rest were being pumped in from across the Line of Control (LoC) and the International Border (IB).

After gripping neighbouring Punjab in its clutches, the drug menace is spreading among youth in the state even as the authorities are yet to establish a full-fledged de-addiction centre in the Jammu region. The state has become a soft target for drug mafia, as it is being used as a transit route from Pakistan, Afghanistan to Punjab and Delhi. “More than 300 deaths have been reported due to drug-related problems in Jammu district in the past five years,” said Zorawar Singh Jamwal, chairman, Team Jammu, and member of State Drug De-Addiction Centre Monitoring Committees. “There are limited de-addiction facilities in Jammu,” Jamwal added. The police had established a centre at the Police Lines in 2012, where 7,799 patients were treated till 2018.

Pertinently, the Central government had stopped the cross-border trade from Salamabad in Kashmir and Chakan da Bagh in Poonch on April 18, saying that “there had been regular reports that Pakistan is sending narcotics, illegal ammunition and funding terror in the state using this trade.” Drug mafia threats also keep families from seeking help. Many families refused to speak on the record. Local residents accepted they are fast losing the next generation in the region to the drug menace.

Officials said the Ramban-Banihal National Highway, one of the two road links between Kashmir and mainland India, has turned into a major route for the drug mafia that has connections to Pakistan-based smugglers. This is after the Border Security Force (BSF) and the local police cut off heroin supply lines into Punjab. In April, the Centre suspended trade with Pakistan-occupied J&K after reports of the routes being misused by Pakistan-based elements for pushing illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency.

The drug is sent by Pakistan and then transported into states and districts. We carry out coercive and corrective measures. Trucks from Kashmir Valley going towards Punjab or Jammu are stopped, checked and seized if required. Many FIRs have been filed and seizures made," said Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Udhampur, Rajiv Pandey. 

In areas close to the LoC, the supply of narcotics is in such abundance that a gram of heroin costs just Rs 500. Since March 26, 2019, quantity of drugs and narcotics seized stands at 77,631.65 kg. It is 354.78 per cent more than the total quantity seized in 2014. According to India’s Election Commission, as on May 20, cash and goods (drugs, liquor, gold, silver etc.) worth Rs 3,456.22 crore were seized across the country. This comes to Rs 60 crore a day.

Assessment 

Our assessment is that two major centres of drug production in Asia are the Golden Crescent compromising Afghanistan, North West Frontier Province of Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics and the Golden Triangle comprising Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. The geographical location of Jammu and Kashmir helps in the easy availability of drugs in the state. 

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) Report-2018 mentions India being the "transit country for illicitly produced opiates, in particular heroin, which originates in Afghanistan and is trafficked through the country via Pakistan en route to Europe and North America (mainly Canada). Also, the poppy cultivation has not only increased in southern districts of Pulwama and Anantnag, but central Kashmir’s Budgam and north Kashmir’s Kupwara districts too have high demand and supply of drugs.

We feel that ongoing turmoil has also played a huge role. The studies show that in Kashmir, drugs are not used for recreational purposes but as a coping mechanism to deal with the stresses.  

Pakistan’s proxy war in Kashmir was driven primarily by infiltration of trained terrorists in the Valley. It is likely that it has started to fund these terror organisation by pushing narcotics and drug money into  Jammu and Kashmir.  It can be noted that the Afghan variety of drug is being pumped into Kashmir via Pakistan which is further pushed into Punjab via Jammu. Kashmiri farmers are also being forced into cultivating poppy to generate funds to finance street rage and terrorist violence.

The illicit trafficking in narcotics is often linked to arms smuggling, insurgency and organised crime. Illegal trade in narcotics and arms generate billions of dollars in the black market and is the major source of funding terrorism, insurgency and organised crime, which have international ramifications. It is inconceivable to fight them without fighting the menace of drug trafficking.

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