TODAY -

Nadda's hailing 'War On Drugs' Campaign in Manipur (sounds overpatriotic)

SK Singh *



28 January, Thursday morning news carried a column where JP Nadda the National President of the BJP addressed the executive council meeting of the BJP, Manipur Pradesh, through video conferencing. He was highlighting several achievements of the BJP government in the state under CM N Biren with patronage from the PM N Modi. Yes, he was right as we can see several landmark achievements in Manipur during the last three and half years.

What is not easily perceptible is, however, Nadda's hailing of the GOM for its 'War on Drugs' campaign. Understandably, he could be appreciating the CM for his success in reported controlling of drug mafia and the spread of it, the massive cutting down of poppy plants across the hill districts, the import of drug into the state through clandestine route.

If this was his intention, he perhaps was not in tune with the ground reality here in Imphal. Nadda sounds over patriotic; for the public opinion is otherwise; public across the state except some hill districts, specially Tengnoupal, are in protest mood for lacking seriousness in handling drug kingpins. Destroying poppy cultivation alone may not amount to such height of applause while drug lords are set free, not one but several of them, on grounds which sound fishy.

True, in her address on the first day of the 12th session of the 11th Manipur assembly, the Governor did highlight many achievements in many sectors. These appear to be in order considering the ground reality this day. On the issue of "War against Drugs", the Governor mentioned, '258 drug-related cases were registered and 357 persons were too arrested. Large quantities of drugs like heroin powder and WY tablets were seized and over 2800 acres of poppy plantation destroyed.'

Yes, there is for sure continuous apprehension of drug dealers in several districts. Mention may be made of Thoubal district when on 29 October, the police team picked up one Kayamuddin alias, Amuthi with 435 kg of brown sugar,438 liters of morphinated liquid from Moijing awang leikai. There is also the intensified drive against plantation of 'poppy', across the hill districts. The government has succeeded in roping in not only police and forest departments but also central paramilitary forces in cutting down near matured poppy plants.

Emboldened by this drive a certain village called 'Paoyi'/ 'Poi', in Ukhrul district organized mass cutting down of such plants. The Village Authority took the rare initiative on their own recalling how the GOM is trying hard to save the state from drug. The CM utterly impressed with this venture did his bit, announced a cash award of Rs 1, 00,000 to the Village Authority for this exemplary initiative.

These are laudable efforts of the government; and yet, merely periphery; more intriguing cases are yet to surface. We can trace the development in a few of such major incidents of the so-called war on drugs. Is the war actually happening, results achieved, mafias or gang lords or their conduit convicted? If public opinion, rather massive across the state, is any indication, there is a miss between the slogan and the results.

There is a vociferous outcry against the state government for not preferring an appeal in the higher court when the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Court (ND&PC) absolved one Lhukhosei Zou, former Chairman of the Autonomous District Council of Chandel district, as not guilty from the case when he was arrested by a team of police officers led by an Addl SP of the Narcotics and Border Affairs Department of the state police in June, 2018.

The arrest of Zou, a BJP leader from his official quarter in Lamphalpat, on the intervening night of 19 and 20 June, 2018 reportedly yielded near-5 KG 'Number-4 grade heroin', 3 lakh tablets of a drug known as 'World is Yours', worth around Rs 27 crores in the international market plus over Rs 57 lakh in cash. This case was reported as the biggest haul of drugs from the official residence of a politician in power.

Zou was however acquitted on 17 December, 2020 as not guilty and instead his driver and a 19 year old boy who were too in his quarter at the time of arrest, were found guilty for possessing the huge haul of drug. The immediate question was how a driver of poor means and another 19 year old boy in the house of Zou could afford to get into the massive drug business running into multi crore of rupees under the very nose of their master .

Apart from the massive amount of investment, the logistics, the contacts and the postures, the two boys are too feeble to handle the deal, certainly not within their capability. Various organizations, CSOs, Women Forms across the valley had been, except from the district to which Zou belongs to, protesting against the deliberate refusal of the government to prefer an appeal against the verdict acquitting the alleged kingpin.

Particular mention may be made about vehement complaints against the judgment from a CSO known as "3.5 Group". They preferred to address the CM highlighting the impossibility of acquitting Zou who was reportedly caught red handed with such a huge quantity of drugs from his official quarters and yet could be found not guilty and instead two young boys of humble means and stance, charged with possessing the haul.

The 3.5 Group has reportedly argued in the letter, " the judgments not only set an unhealthy precedent but also demonstrated the ailing state of the criminal justice system. If the trend continued unchecked the drug cartels operating in Manipur would be emboldened further." The Group requested the CM to prefer an appeal in the HC Manipur seeking reinvestigation and retrial.

What could be most embarrassing predicament for the Biren government could be:

i) the alleged efforts of the Sr Counsel of Zou and the then SP of Imphal West who allegedly went to the NDPS court to attempt withdrawal of the charge sheet against Zou,

ii) Hench man of CM reportedly visiting the residence of the Addl SP, not once but twice to withdraw the charge sheet at the behest of the CM,

iii) the return of the CM's Medal for Gallantry award by the then Addl SP (NAB) in charge of the arrest of Zou, as a mark of protest, on learning that Zou was found innocent and set free of any charge,

iv) The shifting of the Addl SP (NAB) was too quick as much un-ceremonial, to be attached to Police HQs on her refusal to withdraw the charge sheet;

Mr JP Nadda should have recalled these developments leading to a mysterious release of the alleged person in conjunction with the sequences of the events leading to the ultimate orders of the court declaring him as not guilty; the entire guilt being dumped of two apparently innocent young boys of very limited means and posture to be involved in this multi crore drug business.

The entire drama might unfold into perhaps an uprising from the masses of possible massive backlash. Recalling the mass continuous uprising against the acquittal, across the valley during these few months, more embarrassment might be in store for the GOM not long before.


* SK Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on February 10, 2021.


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