Clear & present danger: 1.4 lakh youth addicted to drugs in violence-hit Manipur
A senior official of Manipur's Narcotics and Affairs of Border Department said while dealing with the drugs-related cases, the state government never targeted a particular community
Of Manipurs 28 lakh population, 1.4 lakh youth are affected by the drugs menace, forcing the state government to launch a 'War Against Drugs' campaign that led to the arrest of 2,518 drug peddlers and destruction of 15,496 acres of illegal poppy cultivation in the past six years, officials said on Tuesday.
A senior official of Manipur's Narcotics and Affairs of Border Department said that while dealing with the drugs-related cases and destruction of illegal poppy cultivation areas, the state government never targeted a particular community.
"Drugs ruined many precious lives in Manipur and India. Manipur has a population of only 28 lakh, of which 1.4 lakh are currently affected by the drugs menace. The state has become a gateway for illegal drugs smuggling into the mainland Indian states," the official told IANS.
Manipur government's actions against the drugs menace and destruction of illegal poppy fields in the reserved forests (RF) and protected forests are the two main reasons of unrest since early this year, which erupted in the ethnic violence from May 3.
Poppy cultivation is prohibited in India under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act 1985, except under a licence issued by the Central Bureau of Narcotics.
At present, licit opium poppy cultivation is permitted by the Indian government in selected tracts in a few north Indian states.
The official said that the Manipur government never targeted a particular community, and encroachment evictions from the reserve forest and protected forest were done statewide to preserve the forests in view of the deteriorating climatic conditions.
According to the official, of the 2,518 drug peddlers arrested since 2017, 1,083 were Muslim, 873 people belonged to Kuki-Chin tribals, 381 belonged to the Meitei community, while 181 people belonged to various other communities.
Out of the destruction of 15,496 acres of illegal poppy fields since 2017, 13,121 acres belonged to Kuki-Chin tribals, 2,340 acres belonged to Naga tribals, and 35 acres to other communities.
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The official said that the 291 encroachers evicted from the protected and reserve forest areas in various districts, including Imphal East, Imphal West, Kangpokpi, Thoubal and Noney, belonged to various communities, including Kuki-Chin, Naga tribals, Nepali, Meitei etc.
The hills account for 90 per cent of the state's area and 10 per cent of its population, while the valley occupies 10 per cent land.
Out of the 60 Assembly seats, the valley accounts for 40 seats, dominating the state government and policy-making decisions.
In the valley, there are Hindu, non-tribal Meitei communities while the hills are inhabited largely by the Christian Naga and Kuki-Zomi communities.
Protesting against the state government's action to evict them from forest lands and destruction of illegal poppy cultivation in the reserve and protected forests, the tribals had on March 10 organised protest rallies in three districts -- Churachandpur, Kangpokpi and Tengnoupal, during which five people were injured.
Fresh incidents of violence, including arson and vandalisation of government properties, were triggered on April 27 in Churachandpur district after the tribals launched fresh protests against the state government's action against illegal poppy cultivation.
Over 70 people died while scores of others were left injured after rampant arsoning and clashed broke out in Manipur after a 'Tribal Solidarity March' organised in the 10 hill districts on May 3 to protest against the Meitei community's demand for Scheduled Tribe (ST) status.
Government officials accused the Kuki militants of inciting Kuki tribal encroachers against the government, which has been evicting the tribals from the forest land and destroying poppy fields and these actions are said to be a precursor to the ethnic violence that was triggered on May 3. The Centre and the Manipur government had signed a tripartite agreement and 'Suspension of Operation' with three Kuki militant outfits -- the Kuki National Army (KNA), Zomi Revolutionary Army (ZRA) and Kuki Revolutionary Army (KRA) -- on August 22, 2008. After the March 10 agitations by the tribals, allegedly backed by the Kuki militants, the Manipur government had unilaterally withdrawn itself from the tripartite agreement. However, the Centre is yet to give its approval to the Manipur government's decision.