Chief Minister N Biren Singh recently chastised a few communities inhabiting the state for active engagement in vehicle lifting and drug smuggling in the course of an assembly debate on ‘War on Drugs’. Although the chief minister did not specifically mentioned the said communities, everyone could guess it in the light of daily newspaper reports on seizure of drugs and poppy cultivation besides vehicle theft. It is indeed rare for a state leader to openly mouth such words in public that too at the floor of the state assembly.
Mr Biren also appealed to the leaders of these communities to do something about it. Well, we think it is time for not only leaders of the communities in dock but other communities also to deliberate on the episode. Every now and then, police teams from other states, more particularly from Delhi had turned up in Manipur in search of stolen vehicles and it often led to large scale seizures. Delhi police have been able to crack vehicle theft cases and round up members of such gangs and in many cases persons of Manipur origin especially from a particular community are found involved. It was in fact a flourishing business for inter-state gangs who profit from sale of such Number 2 vehicles, while corrupt police officials make money by squeezing both the buyer and seller of the vehicles with dubious origins.
So many vehicle lifter gangs operate in Imphal. If they are arrested by the police they are considered lucky, for it is doomsday for anyone caught red handed by members of the public while trying to steal vehicles. It is also said that many such vehicles operate in the interior areas of the valley and hill districts and seldom have gone beyond the district boundaries for fear of detection and seizure by police, especially the commandos.
Chief Minister N Biren Singh has now revived the Anti-Vehicle Theft Cell in the police department and has declared war on vehicle lifter gangs recently. And, it is yielding results and police in almost every district have ramped up action against vehicle lifters leading to the recovery of several two-wheeler and four-wheeler vehicles across the state. In the present mission in the state also, persons of a particular community are found involved in most cases of vehicle theft.
Almost everyday, drug smugglers or dealers get caught with huge quantities of heroin No 4 or brown sugar or synthetic drugs in the state, in recent times. However, as they say it is only the tip of the iceberg of what passes through the state on a routine basis. What we must also understand is that not all who are caught red-handed with drugs are the real owners of the seized drugs, but mostly couriers or mules in the modern parlance. Almost everywhere, the drug lords use couriers or mules to smuggle the consignment and these couriers or mules could be anyone.
Majority of those caught red-handed with drug consignments are from the said communities chastised by N Biren. Again, poppy cultivation has been detected mostly in Kangpokpi and Saikul constituencies besides Churachandpur district. The interrogation report of the tribal chiefs reveal that certain SoO groups are involved in the practice. So, the stakes are high as many of the SoO groups are more or less involved with the leading politicians of the state.
The other day, N Biren Singh reiterated in the state assembly that the state government will not compromise on any drug-related issues and warned that if underground outfits under Suspension of Operation (SoO) are found involved in poppy cultivation, the government will withdraw the SoO agreement. We still do not know what the Centre is saying about the Manipur government withdrawing from SoO.
Still then, it is also the responsibility of the leaders to come clean, leaving aside political considerations and community affiliations. It is not the communities alone that are named and shamed when such seizures are made, but the name of Manipur is smeared also.