While the anti-drug campaign launched by the government had managed to step on the toes of the cartel bosses and become a major factor in the present turmoil in Manipur, it had its spill over effect on the neighbouring states activating its antenna and cleaning noses for sniffing illegal drug consignments.
The Assam chief minister had become very active in the anti-drug campaign as he nudged his officers to be proactive in the campaign. But, intentionally it became a shame for a friendly neighbour as most of the large drug consignments seized within the borders of Assam had leaked its way through Manipur where a ‘committed’ War on Drugs campaign was supposed to be going on.
So, CM Himanta Biswa purposefully sidestepped the point of origin of the drug consignments as ‘a neighbouring state’ without mentioning Manipur. How did large drug consignments manage to slip through the layers of interception points involving different dedicated agencies and units besides other forces who have joined the anti-drug campaign here in the state? The lack of credible intelligence or focus is clearly apparent here and our heads hang in shame whenever Assam police seizes drug consignments originating from Manipur in Assam.
Now, with the ethnic clashes happening in Manipur drug cartels have chosen another route in the state of neighbouring Mizoram. There had been a number of major seizures of drug consignments in Mizoram state and on the road coming from Mizoram through Assam. The extra security measures taken up during the state assembly elections also made it possible for police and security forces to seize more than the usual quantity.
However, the drug seizures had mostly been by the Assam Rifles and central forces. On the other hand, the Chief Minister Zoramthanga and other political leaders do not talk much about the narcotic route or business there, nor do they engage in chest thumping victory rants.
In view of the present turmoil in the state of Manipur, the drug route had mostly shifted to Mizoram state which also borders Myanmar and there is a sudden spurt in drug seizures there by state police and central agencies. Both in the states of Manipur and Mizoram, the border is porous and mostly unfenced.
But, as Manipur happens to be a traditional route used by drug smugglers for decades they find it easier to grease palms and transport drug consignment while in Mizoram one has to newly establish the network. But circumstances have again compelled the drug smugglers to revert to Mizoram even though Manipur is still the route of choice for the cartels. Even as Manipur continues to burn due to the ongoing ethnic strife, drug couriers still find ways to smuggle in contraband drugs.
Traffic along the Tiddim Road connecting Imphal with Churachandpur had been blocked both ways by hordes of Kuki and Meitei volunteers. So, the only route available is the highway from Churachandpur leading to Mizoram. So we had thought that, the Manipur route for drug smuggling had become off-limits due to the present ethnic strife and that it had shifted to Mizoram. But, it seems drug consignments continue to slip through the police dragnet and mayhem. The most convenient route for transporting drugs and opium remains Churachandpur and Moreh. From there, it is further smuggled through various routes.
Communal riots or not, the drug business and supply must go on uninterrupted. That seems to be the dictum. On the other hand, states like Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh are taking up their own anti-drug campaigns. With this, Manipur seems to have won the debate on the need for engaging the drug cartels head-on and stopping the drug invasion midway before it spread to other territories. Yet, there is a danger of ‘Kuki victimhood’ springing up in other states also, as the unrelenting anti-drug campaign goes on.