Villagers in Tulkhan in south Kashmir were surprised to see a JCB moving into the village under a police escort. This small picturesque village located on the Jammu-Srinagar National highway had been peaceful even during the three-decades of trouble in Kashmir.
As the machine started scooping the earth from the compound of a house in the presence of the curious onlookers it extricated a big silver water-proof sac. The machine fished out more such packets. The bags contained hashish, a hallucinogen derived from hemp or Bhang plant.
A policeman lifting the excavated bucket filled with hashish packets at Tulkhan (Twitter)
The next day the JCB mowed a nearby field and the digging yielded bucketsful of hashish packets. The two spots were identified by two drug peddlers, who were arrested on a tip-off. At the end of it, SHO Bijebehara Javed Jan and his team had recovered 35 kg of hashish, and innumerable capsules and codeinecodein bottles. On an average10 gm of hashish is sold for Rs 2K to 3K in India, the international prices are even higher.
The villagers were shocked to see that their land was being filled with poison and it was meant to destroy the lives of their young boys and in some cases girls too.
In the past two years, the recovery of narcotics and psychotropic drugs makes it look as if Kashmir is sitting on a powder keg. According to Imtiyaz Hussain, SSP Anantnag, Kashmiri youth are victims of narco-terrorism launched by Pakistan for the last three decades. He says since the government was busy fighting Pakistan-sponsored terrorism, the public never realized how Pakistan was slow poisoning our youth through drugs in all these 30 years.
Youth development and Rehablitation center at Eidgah, Srinagar
Some of the drug peddlers arrested turned out to be terrorists. In village Trehgam, 30 km inside the line of control in North Kashmir, early this month the Army and Police had recovered heroin worth Rs 60 crore that had come from Pakistan. The case and another case of nearby town Handwara, are being investigated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for its international ramifications.
Almost the same time the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) had arrested two men and a woman in Mumbai carrying 6.628 kilograms of 'Kashmiri' charas worth Rs 2 crore in the international market. NCB officials said the drug was sourced from Kashmir.
The extent of the drug problem can be estimated from the recoveries made during the last two years.
J&K Police have also seized 464 kilograms of narcotics worth about Rs 424 Cr. This includes 59 kg Heroin, 51 kg brown sugar and 355 kg hashish. Besides, it has recovered cash of more than Rs 1 crore from associates of terrorists. Interestingly, the police have also recovered arms and ammunition from them.
Dr Mohammad Muzaffar Khan examining a patient
Realizing how serious a problem the free availability of drugs had caused in Kashmir, the Police had started a Drug de-addiction centre in the police control room as early as 2008. This April, the centre was renamed the Youth Development and Rehabilitation Centre and shifted to Eidgah, downtown Srinagar, to make its access to those needing help easy
According to Dr Mohammad Muzaffar Khan, Director of the Centre, the rise of drug addiction among the youth across Kashmir is alarming. Last year, he treated 1,280 addicts while this year he is treating 560 young men.
“The situation has changed a lot during the past five years,” he said.
“Earlier the youth started with medicinal drugs like Codeine and now it’s the deadly heroin; the situation is really dangerous”, Khan said.
Young men who are under treatment at the center playing in its compound
“On average we get five to eight patients with heroin addiction per day,” Dr Khan said. He said patients are brought by their families and after they have started showing health complications. “When I ask them what prompted them to seek help, the common answer is it was after the death of a friend or a peer,” Dr Khan commented.
The Police has launched a "War against drugs, campaign and said it will continue alongside the counter-terrorism operations.
Inspector General of Police, Kashmir range, Vijay Kumar has sought public help in eradicating this menace. “To protect the youth of Kashmir from the menace of drug addiction, the Jammu and Kashmir Police is acting on war footings against narco-terrorism coming from across the border and aimed at luring the youth in the Valley.”