| Col. Bipin Pathak - 16 Feb 2019

Not Only Terrorism, Kashmir is Also Losing a Generation to Drugs

As India gearing up to respond to the perpetrators of Pulwama terror attack, which took away lives of over 40 paramilitary men, here is an article written by a retired Indian Military Intelligence officer, which throws light on the plight of Kashmiri youth who have seen both conflict and psychosocial instability since 1989, paving way to disorders unheard in Kashmir like depression, OCD, PTSD and drug addiction. 


By Col Bipin Pathak

New Delhi, Feb 16, 2019:

As far as the problem of drug addiction in Kashmir is concerned it has been observed that this region has seen an alarming rise in substance abusers over the past decades. A renowned psychiatrist in Kashmir, Dr Margoob and Dutta in one of their books have reported that around 2.11 lakh drug addicts are in Kashmir valley. The common substance used by Drug Addicts in Kashmir is Cannabis, Brown Sugar, heroin, SP tablets, Anxit, Alprax, inhalants like Fevicol,  Thinner, Shoe Polish, Paint, varnish and snake venom for getting high.  Kashmir is losing a generation to drugs.  According to the reports of Drug de-addiction and Rehabilitation Centre, Srinagar, the total numbers of patients seen in the OPD from February 2008 to December 2016 were 15294. The break down was  472  were diagnosed as alcohol abusers, 1359 as Opioid abusers, 7860 as cannabis abusers, 352 cocaine abusers, 1080 as benzodiazepines users, 460 volatile abusers and 3741 were polydrug abusers. The percentage of Valley youths who are affected by drug abuse has risen to 40% from below 5% prior to 2008.

To curb this threat, the J&K Police have taken initiatives by conducting awareness programs in various districts like Srinagar, Baramulla and Anantnag. The J&K Police have also established drug de-addiction centre at Police Control Room, Srinagar. The drug de-addiction centre is staffed by a Clinical psychologist, Psychiatrists, de-addiction Social workers, Counsellors, medical officers, and yoga trainers. The centre admits a person for detoxification and rehabilitation only after his motivation and proper medical check-up. Usually, a patient is admitted for a period of 3 or 4 weeks. The daily routine at the centre for patients includes group sessions on weekends, morning sessions, recreational activities like singing, dancing, evening sessions and detailed review of medical, psychological and social interventions.

The Army has also been in the forefront to dissuade the youths and towards this end, Army has a de-addiction centre at Baramulla which has been functional for over five years. This centre has been a great help o the youths of Baramulla, Uri, Rampur, Gulmarg, Nowgam and areas of Sopore. In order to offset the acute shortage of Drug Rehabilitation Centres in the valley the Army, under “Operation Sadbhavna” has opened centres. Two centres in Srinagar and Baramulla are already functioning and more are in the pipeline.

On Oct 18, the Govt of Jammu and Kashmir had put in the public domain the first ever drug de-addiction policy draft for public feedback and seeked suggestions on the draft on first-ever drug de-addiction policy from academicians, civil society organisations, government departments and the general public for making suitable, if needed. The 31-page draft document has been framed by the Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (IMHANS) of the Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar in collaboration with the Department of Psychiatry, SKIMS, and the J&K State AIDS Control Society.

The narco fallouts pose a challenge to the locals, Government agencies and NGO ’s. The biggest challenge is the illegal trafficking and sale of drugs within the valley.  An unconfirmed input states that a large tract of land in areas of Lolab in Dist Kupwara and in areas of Pulwama / Bijbehara is being utilised for illegal opium cultivation for financing stone pelting and terror-related activities. Similarly, tracts of land in Pulwama, Kulgam and some areas in Ganderbal, Budgam, Hajin and Bandipore are into cannabis cultivation.  The Afghan variety of drug is being pumped into Kashmir, via Pakistan, which is further pushed into Punjab via Jammu. Pakistan Army and ISI  have facilitated the radicalised homegrown militancy by financing through narco-terrorism. Linkages between Kashmiri militants and drug trafficking in Punjab have also been established. The terror attack on a religious congregation at  Amritsar on Nov 18 and the reported presence of Zakir Musa in the same city is believed to be part of the same chain.

Poppy cultivation has not only increased in southern districts of Pulwama and Anantnag but also in central Kashmir’s district of Budgam and north Kashmir’s district of Kupwara and they too have a high demand and supply of drugs. The real-time sale and purchase of drugs is a vulnerable part of the transaction and it is here that  the police action should spring in time and ensure action as per the law of the land.

The drug menace alongside militancy is a challenge, both to the State and the Centre. The continuous flow of pumping in the drugs is to make the youths of Kashmir dependent on handlers across for meeting their drug requirements in lieu of partaking in acts of violence. This has assisted Pakistan in no of ways ,  as youths don’t have to exfiltrate  for training thereby giving leverage to Pakistan for denying presence of camps and training in their country and secondly internal utilisation of drug money to commit both overt and covert acts of violence, replenish the depleting cadre and procurement of arms from sources within India / Nepal.   Last year, 70 kg of pure heroin was seized from the Valley, while over 25 kg of contraband was seized from Jammu — totally worth INR 500 cr in the international market.

Pakistan over a period of time continuously upgrades and recalibrates its proxy and hybrid war strategy in Kashmir to pose a  challenge to  India’s Counter-Insurgency Grid.  The sudden outbursts of stone pelters and frenzied crowd during and post operation does make one think as if the crowd is possessed or under influence of some substance that they don’t fear the reprisal. The dispensation of the day along with think tanks involved in security should formulate a counter strategy to negate nefarious designs by evolving flexible active approach rather than reactive handling.  

The other challenge to humanity  is the restricted avenues available for rehabilitation of drug addicts. More drug de-addiction centres and rehab centres are the essential requirements today.  Awareness has to be created by Govt Agencies, Educational institutes, NGO ’s, parents and other social work organizations regarding the effects of drug consumption and early detection of users.  Enhancing an addicts social support could help him get rid of this menace. Drug Addicts often feel victimised by the society, hence efforts have to be made to integrate them back into the society without their feeling alienated. 

The govt already has various institutions to strengthen Internal Security, like, National Investigation Agency  (NIA), Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) , National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), Combating Financing of Terrorism Cell (CFT Cell),

FICN Coordination Centre (FCORD), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and not to forget the regular Intelligence Agencies. With such an army of agencies, yet we lack an upper edge. This calls for a rethink and weeding out of non-performers for achieving improved intelligence and synergized intelligence flow.

Adoption and upgrading multi-pronged approach in dealing with various dimensions of militancy include narco-terrorism will pay dividends in times to come. This may include strengthening of border infrastructure, multi-tiered and multi-nodal deployment along the LOC / IB , deploy state of art technical surveillance equipment, induct latest weaponry, communication and interception equipment , advanced night vision devices and an light and effective bulletproof vests for personals , equipment like  Full Body Truck Scanning System ( FBTSS) for detecting illegal consignments at Trade Facilitation Centres ( TFC) at Salamabad , Uri and Chakan – da -  Bagh , Poonch . Incidentally, trans-LOC trade is favoured by drug traffickers. Taking advantage of non-availability of screening equipment, they conceal a small quantity of high-value drugs in different consignments which ultimately makes way to its destination in the valley or rest of India.

On Sep 18, Gujarat ATS had apprehended a Kashmiri youth from Srinagar for picking up delivery of a large amount of heroin from Unjha town, Mehsana, Gujarat. The Gujarat ATS is one of the few examples of apprehensions, besides them, the local police have had apprehended culprits from Kupwara, South Kashmir, Doda, Jammu and Rajauri. Major recoveries have taken place at TFC, Salamabad, Uri in the years 2014 and 2017. An analysis of recovered consignment indicates that besides being transhipped from areas of Rajauri, Poonch and Kupwara in the vicinity of LOC  and from areas of Samba, Mira Sahib, Kathua and RS Pura in the vicinity of the  IB to the valley, major quantity has also come from Punjab, Nepal and even Bhutan. In the race to ensure the sanctity of LOC/IB, we may have overlooked hinterland routes right under our eyes like the Bannihal, old Mughal road or from Mawah Dachan  ( Kishtwar) which borders Kokernag ( Dist Anantnag).

Most of the analysts have been attributing narco as one of the important factors of financing militancy in the valley. No doubt, it has to be given its due relevance but not to forget long term financing through returns from investments of a coterie of businessmen who seem to have amassed wealth in last three to four decades from nowhere. Most of these businessmen are in the good books of both sides. The other modes of financing such as under-invoicing are still in existence plus local sources have revealed that  Pakistan has now started funnelling in diamonds through TFC ’s which needs to be corroborated by govt agencies.

Pakistan-sponsored narco-terrorism seems to have altered the dimension of militancy in the Valley and given a new lease of life to it. It is now further permeating to Punjab, media reports also indicate that up to 25 % of narcotics being infiltrated into J&K is through Punjab. It would be imprudent to believe that the drift towards drug abuse amongst the Valley youths is due to the socio-psychological impact of conflict, unemployment or family and social issues.  A much larger canvas is at play which if not identified and neutralized will have a disastrous impact in terms of governance and security.

The subject of drug addiction in valley is often discussed in various environments by the government and civil society, however the peril continues. Is it because of the half hearted planning or failure to implement severe measures to cap the supply of drugs, unsuccessful in creating awareness and perception amongst masses, youths and high risk groups. De addiction and rehabilitation facilities are not commensurate with no of users, thereby devastating Kashmir’s younger generation. Various data based on community surveys on drug-related problems in Jammu and Kashmir specify that deaths have started occurring directly due to over dosages, convulsions and cardiac arrests. The time to change this scenario is now! Photo Courtesy – Kashmir Observer / Kashmir Post

(The writer is an expert on Security, Strategic planning, Vigilance, Threat assessment and Material and Personnel Management, including General Administration: He was superannuated from Indian Army on 31 Aug 2015; Was commissioned in 2 Kumaon ( Berar) in Jun 84 and subsequently converted to Intelligence Corps in 1993. He has served in various CI GRIDs of Indian Army and has been posted to various important posts in the Intelligence Departments. E-mail: bipin146184@yahoo.com)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Indian Observer Post and Indian Observer Post does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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