Bad money creates parasitic culture in J&K – Part 1

This is a three part series by Dr. Ajay Chrungoo, Chairman of the Panun Kashmir, a frontline organisation of Kashmiri Pandits. Dr. Chrungoo is a guest writer with Canary Trap.

BY DR AJAY CHRUNGOO

On 24th January, an Enforcement Directorate official Saji Mohan was arrested by ATS Maharastra for allegedly trying to sell heroin in Oshiwara. Saji Mohan is a 1995 batch Indian Police Service Officer of Jammu and Kashmir cadre. He was incharge of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Panjab during his previous posting as zonal Director Narcotics Control Bureau at Chandigarh.

Saji was arrested with 12 kgs of heroin in a club subsequent to a tip off by two other arrested persons Vicky Oberoi and Rajesh Kumar. The duo had been arrested earlier by ATS Mumbai on January 17 and 1.85 kg of heroin was recovered from them. Both were linked to notorious narcotics smuggler Parminder Singh who used to smuggle Narcotics from Pakistan and Afghanistan via the international border. After investigating Saji Mohan, ATS recovered further 25 kgs of heroin at Naigoan in Central Mumbai. Saji Mohan had served in Jammu and Kashmir Police in different capacities including Additional SP Baderwah, SP Doda, SP Ramban besides Sher-i-Kashmir Police Academy.

Close to the heels of this arrest was a 13 kg heroin haul by BSF after an encounter with smugglers near the Border outpost Pul Kanjero in Attari sector of Amritsar. Two of the smugglers involved came from the Pakistan side to deliver the consignments to the two smugglers from Indian side. The two Pakistanis after sneaking across the border crawled up to the barbed wire fence. Using ropes they tried to push the consignment through a PVC pipe laid under the fence and used by the farmers for watering agricultural fields situated between the fence and the border. A few days earlier a woman Saddiqiquan, who had made a fake passport to visit Pakistan, was arrested along with Akhtar Abbas at Attari sector and 8 kgs of heroin worth Rs 40 crores was recovered from their possession.

With these arrests the deep roots of Narcotic trade linked to Jammu and Kashmir have once again come to the fore. Unfortunately the illegal economy in the state and its implications has remained not even peripheral concern for Kashmir analysts and think tanks. How this illegal economy impacts the politics – local, regional and international – and what are its implications on society are subjects which eventually are ignored.

Regular seizures of drugs along the LoC and IB in the state, hawala money and counterfeit currency has been a feature of counter terrorism operations in the state and local papers have been regularly reporting such incidents. The discourse on Kashmir at the political level in India eschews this dimension. However experts of International repute have taken significant and serious notice of linkages between terrorism in Kashmir and its financial support through drug trade.

Yousef Bodansky while highlighting the pan Islamist linkages of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir reports about the master plan for Islamist insurgency in Caucasus and Kashmir drawn at Mogadishu, Somalia in 1996 in which Osama bin Laden and high ranking Iranian intelligence officers were also present. As per Bodansky, Javed Ashraf of ISI was handed over the task of providing arms and ammunition and paying for the transportation of Islamist fighters from the training camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon and Sudan to the new Islamist Jihad fronts in Chechnya and Kashmir.

Harnessing drug financial system to support such an endeavor has been the earliest and readily available channel given the poppy fields of Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan.

Drugs and Narcotics

The narcotics hauls by police in Jammu and Kashmir provide an insight into the magnitude of the problem. The arrest of Vicky Oberoi, Rajesh Kumar and official of enforcement director Saji Mohan along with heroin provides a glimpse into entrenchment of narcotic cartels. But they are not isolated cases.

  • On 15 November 2008 Ferozpur police recovered 2 kgs of heroin worth Rs 10 crores. The Jammu and Kashmir Police cracked a well knit racket of Indo-Pak trans-border narcotics smugglers operating from Jammu and Sailkot districts. Three smugglers all residents of Arnia were arrested. During interrogation it was revealed that consignments of pure heroine totaling 60-65 kg were transferred to India in one year alone. The value of such quantity is Rs 65 crores.
  • Twelve kgs of poppy straw was recovered by Samba Police on August 11, 2006 along with 4 kgs of charas. The poppy straw or husk is a local variety of narcotics called as Bhukki which is consumed mostly by the drivers in North India. Both charas and Bhukki are grown in Kashmir valley.
  • In December 2006 BSF recovered 25 kgs of heroin along the international Border in RS Pura area of Jammu sector. In July 2006 four kgs of charas was recovered from a smuggler in Doda town.
  • J&K Police recovered 26 kgs of poppy husk (Bhukki) and 6.5 kgs of charas in Talab Tillo area of Jammu city on June 3, 2005. In April month of the same year more than 10 kgs of charas was recovered from a drug peddler in Kud, Udhampur.
  • In November 2004 in one of the biggest narcotic hauls in Jammu city the police recovered 11 kgs of heroin worth Rs 11 crores. Heroin was Pakistan-made and was to be transferred to Delhi. In January 2002, Phagwara police arrested five persons including two surrendered militants of Hizbul Mujahideen with 20 kgs of charas.
  • In May 2003 Narcotics Control Bureau Delhi arrested Mohd. Amin Jaffer of Anantnag, a member of Al-Jihad with 25 kg of charas.
  • The narcotic hauls during last few years given above are neither exhaustive nor complete. However it provides an ample evidence of the state of affairs. While areas adjacent to LoC and IB in Jammu sector are mainly involved in heroin smuggling. the charas and the local variety of poppy husk Bhukki is mainly produced in Kashmir valley. Reports of poppy cultivation in areas of South Kashmir and hinter land of Wullar lake have also surfaced from time to time.
  • The evidence available of the narcotics trade in the state is only the tip of the iceberg with number of drug addicts increasing both in Kashmir valley as well as Jammu. The menace is making inroads into the society.
  • The death of a 12th class student in mysterious circumstances at Dalgate Srinagar in January 2004 brought the extent of drug culture into the society in Kashmir valley to the fore. The dead body of the student Mehfooz Ahmad Khan, son of Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Khan of Sanat Nagar area had been recovered by a patrol party of Ram Munshi Bagh station from a parked Maruti car. Police had recovered the identity card of one Shuja Rasheed who was a son of Deputy SP, from the car. The people suspected the death had taken place due to overdose of drugs.

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