First, it was the Tangkhuls who announced full-fledged support to the War on Drugs 2.0 campaign launched by Chief Minister N Biren Singh. Apex bodies of the Tangkhul community of Ukhrul district, including Tangkhul Wongnao Long (TWL), Tangkhul Shanao Long (TSL), Tangkhul Katamnao Long (TKL), Tangkhul Chief Association (TCA), and church leaders called on the chief minister at his secretariat in Imphal and gave their commitment and affirmation to participate in the CM’s declaration of war on drugs.
The Poumai community of Senapati district was the next in line. Then, the Joint Tribe Council (JTC) and Joint Tribe Students’ Association (JTSA) on behalf of the four cognate tribes of Inpui, Liangmai, Rongmei and Zeme based in Tamenglong district submitted a declaration to Chief Minister N Biren Singh, supporting the state government’s campaign by declaring Poumai inhabited areas as a ‘Drug and Poppy Free Zone’. In recent times, more and more tribes are joining in the campaign.
The main problem in the hill areas is widespread poppy cultivation by doing away with traditional crops and agricultural practices. Poppy cultivation fetches hard cash quickly with little effort while traditional agricultural activity requires hard work and a long process and yet the produce they get is little and not commensurate with the labour they had put in. Earlier, only organic farming was practised in the hills and there was no place for chemical fertilisers. Today, with the introduction of poppy cultivation there has been rampant use of chemical fertilisers which has led to degradation of soil fertility and pollution of water besides deforestation.
In the first edition of the anti-drug campaign, there was support from several quarters. But the campaign was marred by the infamous Lunkhosei Zou case. Somehow, he got himself acquitted by the court while a few of his minions were convicted for possession of huge quantity of drugs. Only when the Supreme Court pulled up the state government for not appealing against the acquittal as demanded by some anti-drug groups, the government recently filed an appeal.
Interestingly, the state did not take into confidence the various anti-drug groups working in the state besides the MeiraPaibis. Well, it was a paradoxical situation.
While the state and its law enforcing agencies has reservations against the anti-drug groups for taking law into their hands, the groups also do not always trust the state agencies of doing their job honestly.
A few days ago, a large consignment of Heroin No 4 worth about Rs 30 crore was seized from some persons, including a police head constable and this is not the first instance of police involvement in the drug trade. In the past also, groups of regular policemen or police commandos and even some army officers were caught with huge quantity of drugs and cases under the NDPS Act are still going on.
This time, Chief Minister N Biren Singh seems serious enough to take on the powerful drug cartels, which is supporting the widespread poppy cultivation and facilitating drug smuggling from across the border. But, he needs the support of all and various stakeholders in the state to succeed in his campaign. The unqualified support extended by several tribe based organisations is indeed welcome. But he needs to rein in more support.
There are 38 recognised tribes in the state counting both Naga and Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups, besides several valley based organisations working for eradication of the drug menace. Whatever differences they might have either politically or otherwise, it needs to be shoved under the carpet for the cause. We should learn to work and fight together.