Stop poisoning the valley!

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The valley of Kashmir is known for its scintillating beauty owing to which it has remained a favorite destination for the tourists across the world and also an abode for the venerated saints. The ravishing lush green valleys, snow-clad mountains and melodious meadows provide tranquility of mind to its inhabitants. The people have been very simple, diligent and austere to the core. They have unprecedented credentials of being tolerant, a trait that paved way for the people of different religions and castes to co-exist and mingle in the symphonically woven socio-cultural fabric of Kashmir.
Since the aurora of Islam ascended Kashmir, the shackles of subjugation evanesced and the people felt elevated by the philosophical and practical aspects of Islam. The people found new means of livelihood in the form of art, crafts and improved practice of agriculture. Notwithstanding the captivating aspects of the valley’s exhilarating beauty and its rich religious, cultural and social contexture, the political uncertainties hovering upon this land left not only excruciating scars upon the people’s memories but let many scandalous activities to penetrate into the society. One such felonious activity is that of cultivation, trade and smuggling of narcotics in the valley.
‘Bhang’ and ‘KhashKhash’ are the two plants which are cultivated in the valley for narcotic drugs. Botanically speaking, ‘Bhang’ plant is Cannabis sativa and ‘KhashKhash/Poppy’ is Papaversomniferum. Both these plants are potential medicinal plants and are also used as psychoactive drugs. Bhang is cultivated for its resin like substance ‘Chars’ obtained from its leaves and inflorescence or the powdery form ‘Gaanja’ obtained from the dried plants parts after grinding them into a fine powder. On the other hand ‘Fukki’ is obtained from the dried fruit shell of the poppy plant (Papaversomnifereum) after subjecting it to extensive grinding in order to obtain fine powder of it.
There are many anti-narcotic laws in India and in the state of J&K under which their cultivation, trade and smuggling is strictly prohibited and legally punishable. In district Anantnag, tehsil Bijbehara is notoriously famous for the cultivation and trade of these narcotics. There is mass scale cultivation and trade of Bhang in villages Duptyaar, Gantalipora, Takibal, Ladiabl, Aswara, Banderpora, Kanelwon, Waghamma …and unfortunately all these villages happen to be my louche neighborhoods. Bijbehara, popularly known as ‘the town of Chinars’ is now being identified as ‘the town of Chars’ owing to the cultivation and trade of Bhang/Chars in its adjoining villages. The cultivation and trade of these narcotic substances is being carried out openly and one wonders to see the administration watching it silently without taking any concrete cognizance of it.
The growing incertitude about the honesty of the administration owing to their inaction to curb this menace is inevitable. The narcotic drug mafia has many infamous traders in this area who collect the local produce and then smuggle it in far off places of the state and outside the state. In 2011-12, a powerful anti-narcotics movement undertaken by then Deputy Commissioner Anantnag, proved successful to the extent that no cultivation and trade of narcotics took place in the district for at least two to three years. The cooperation of public was sought and the Numberdar/Sarpanch of each village was asked to give information about its cultivation and trade in their localities. Hundreds of kanals of land under Bhang cultivation were cleared out and those persons who practiced its cultivation or trade were asked to desist from it. All those who defied the orders were subjected to punitive police action that helped to curb the menace up to 90%. But since then the anti-narcotics movement was kept in abeyance for unknown reasons until the menace reaffirmed more strongly than it used to be earlier.
During the current unrest in the valley, the narcotic drug mafia took advantage of the situation and carried out the smuggling during day and night. Why the anti-narcotics movement has been in doldrums since 2013 is a question that need to be answered but because of the involvement of huge money in it, the obvious reasons could be inferred easily in a State which stands top in the list of corrupt states.
It has been seen that the police sluggishly takes action either in the beginning of the cultivation season in some pockets of the district or at the end of its harvest season. The lackadaisical approach by the administration in dealing with the menace has been the main reason of its expansion both in magnitude and in length and breadth of the valley The narcotic drug mafia has expanded to such an extent in the valley that it has covertly become a source of income to all those who have lost their moral ground to the winds of deceit and corruption. The people are always ready to support any honest action against the narcotic drug mafia but the incertitude about the honesty of the administration has made people mute spectators. In spite of the stringent anti-narcotic laws, the administration and the police have been unable to curb the Bhang cultivation & its trade in the valley.
Kashmir has already earned the distinction of being the ‘smoking capital’ of the sub-continent. People are extremely distressed and have lost the sense of security and safety. Our youth have been caught in a very stressful condition due to the prevailing unrest from last four months. They have been away from their schools, colleges and universities. Their studies have been badly affected and their future is at stake.
On the other hand, many of them have been blinded, arrested, injured and even killed. There seems no sign of palmy days in near future. Under such circumstances, the mental condition of the people particularly of the youth is deteriorating fast, and they are likely to develop depression, Post-traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) and other psychological complications, as warned by the health experts (MSF, IMHANS). The easy availability of narcotic drugs can make the situation worse and therefore, needs immediate response from all the stake holders.
These distressed youth can resort to narcotic drugs and can commit social crimes also. The signs of lurking danger have become evident in each locality where the number of narcotic drug addicts has increased manifold. These narcotic drugs not only affect the health of an individual but tatters his social life completely. The cultivation and trade of narcotic drugs is spreading like an epidemic in the valley and if allowed to remain unabated, it will destroy the society completely. A generation poisoned by drugs has no future.
The need of the hour is to popularize the slogan of ‘Narcotic free Kashmir’. It is better late than never and therefore, a request to all the stake holders including the politicians, religious organizations of all ideologies, the public and the civil society to kindly advocate an immediate action against the epidemic.
The mainstream politicians must stress the administration and the police to act strongly against its cultivators and traders. A committee of the responsible persons from each locality of the area where its cultivation and trade is rampant be formed to seek public support against the menace. The Hurriyat leaders should extend their support to the anti-narcotics movement in order to save the valley from being poisoned by the narcotic drugs.
The police can take the lead against the menace courageously by resisting the pressure from the interest groups backed by narcotic drug mafia and bring back confidence among the public for being honest against the illegal activity. An ‘anti-narcotic police squad’ of honest officers can be formed in each district(to begin with Anantnag) supplemented with a 24×7 helpline to curb the cultivation and trade activity of narcotics in the Valley. Why the police can’t prepare the list of all those involved in the cultivation & trade of narcotics in each area and warn them to desist from this illegal activity? It is right time to get down the brass tacks and stop the epidemic to rule the roost otherwise its repercussions would be unbearable for all of us!

The author can be reached at bilalsir2011@gmail.com

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