There was once a famous Manipuri boxer named Babu Singh (popularly known as Bausing) whose left punch was both powerful and legendary. Once during a fight, as his opponent continued to pummel him left and right, the anxious fans were expecting his legendary left punch. But it never came and he was floored. So came the popular byword ‘Bausing oina’ to describe something that never came despite expectations.
We sincerely hope Chief Minister N Biren Singh’s threat to withdraw ‘Suspension of Operations’ (SoO) with various Kuki outfits does not go that way. Rather, it should not go that way. 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) were found involved in poppy cultivation, the government will withdraw the SoO agreement.
Biren also stated that the government made SoO agreement with underground outfits to bring peace and if the SoO outfits are found involved in poppy cultivation, then there is no need for the suspension of operations to continue.
Strong words indeed. N Biren Singh’s fervent appeals seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Despite pledges given by various tribe organisations to join the War on Drugs campaign 2.0, there is still widespread poppy plantation in the hill areas. Chiefs of villages found encouraging poppy plantations have been hauled and jailed.
We still remember the pledges given by various tribe organisations to N Biren Singh in his second stint as chief minister and much touted War on Drugs 2.0 campaign. First, it was the Tangkhuls who first announced their full-fledged support for the renewed campaign. Then an avalanche of more and more tribes including the Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups herded by respective MLAs and leaders started giving pledges to join the campaign.
Suddenly, a drone survey of the hill areas revealed the presence of widespread poppy cultivation in the guise of other vegetable plantations and the chief minister was aghast.
In the last few days, widespread poppy cultivation has been detected mostly in Kangpokpi and Saikul constituencies besides Churachandpur district. Well this time, the Chief Minister N Biren Singh seems serious enough to take on those supporting the widespread poppy cultivation and facilitating drug smuggling from across the border. He has even revealed the interrogation report of the tribal chiefs 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. It requires political will and resolve if he is to confront these groups. 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 Lhukhosei Zou case. Somehow, he got himself acquitted by the court while a few of his minions were convicted for possession of a 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. Now in the case of the chief minister’s latest warning to SoO groups, we must all remember that SoO was originally signed between the Kuki militant groups and the Assam Rifles and it was only later on that the state government was taken into confidence and made a party. So, we have to keep in mind that the Central government would not be easily convinced of the proposal for withdrawing SoO and Biren Singh had to put maximum effort to realise his threat.