The other day, a journalist was physically assaulted allegedly by supporters of a drug peddler at Hatta Golapati Maning Leikai, Imphal East on Thursday night while covering a drive conducted by the state BharatiyaJanataYuvaMorcha (BJYM) and the Youth Athletic Development Association (YADA) in support of ‘War on Drugs’. The journalist was beaten up despite identifying himself as a member of the media. It was also reported that several rounds were fired to deter the raiding team of BJYM and YADA, in which a YADA volunteer was injured.
Such incidents are not a new phenomenon in Manipur. There have been several instances where locals raise a mob party to chase away either the police force and anti-drug campaigners in certain parts of the state. So, the police and other enforcement agencies sometimes have a big enough force before a special raid in view of bitter experiments they had faced in the past. Many times the police had to call in reinforcements after they were confronted with such mobs while raiding either drug laboratories or distribution points. Such incidents had been happening in mostly Muslim majority areas quite often.
Nobody bothers to question, why is this happening? We all know that except for a few rich families and salaried background, most of the Meitei Pangal or Muslim are either impoverished or uneducated. We do not mean to undermine the said community, but sadly it is the truth. Majority of the families live hand-to-mouth on daily wages and whatever work they could find for the day. Now, a neo-rich class among the Muslims has come of age and they are the people who are big spenders with drug money and they can afford to buy neighbours or whole villages.
A serious effort was made by groups like ANJUMAN and YADA to check drugs among the Muslim population. Somehow, it has failed.
Another matter of concern is the defiance in Kuki-dominated areas against the so-called War on drugs and action against poppy cultivation. The invocation of forest laws had been widely objected mainly in Kuki-dominated areas and as we understand widespread poppy cultivation is mostly carried out in these areas. As such,, the drive against poppy cultivation has sometimes been projected as against the interests of Kukis and painted as a communal campaign.
The state government has to somehow stop this smear campaign and overturn the tables and deal with the drug situation with an iron hand. But, vigilante groups are not the answer. Before Chief Minister N Biren Singh began his anti-drug campaign, some civil society organisations like AMADA, CADA, YADA and several other groups had been carrying out raids in illegal distilleries and joints besides rendezvous points of drug addicts and peddlers.
In fact, some of the groups had their own lock-ups where those seized with liquor or drugs were sometimes beaten up or paraded in public. In recent times, these groups have started teaming up with the police force and rounding up the addicts and peddlers. But nobody bothers with the distinction between big time drug smugglers and petty dealers or drug addicts who were arrested with small amounts of drugs meant for consumption or how we should treat the drug addicts.
Drug addicts are no longer treated as the scum of the earth in the rest of the world. Rather, they are victims of the unrest and turmoil in our society beset with lack of opportunities, unemployment and corruption besides several other factors. Lately, the raids in drinking joints and drug rendezvous points have become a matter of concern, as the police remain mere onlookers while the vigilante marauders run riot. Surely, this cannot be a part of the War on Drugs campaign started by Chief Minister N Biren Singh.