“Since no necessary intervention has been made in this regard, we will be compelled to take up stringent actions on our own accord, to the extent of closing down rehab centres and also drag all concerned to court very soon,” warned Drug Users Federation for Human Rights and Justice convenor Salam Berlin.
Amidst the state government’s cry for “war on drugs” and CSOs, student bodies, etc campaigning to curb the menace of drugs in the state, three former drug users (recovering addicts) who have abstained themselves from drug use for quite some time, were allegedly apprehended by members (four After Care (AC) and one staff of the Realize Rehabilitation Centre (RRC), Mongjam Chingjin and paraded naked in broad daylight on the pretext of “searching for any drugs” on them.
According to a release by the Drug Users Federation for Human Rights and Justice, the incident took place at Koubru Leikha, Senapati district on March 31 at around 4 pm while the three former drug users, riding on two different bikes, were on their way back to Imphal after regaling Holi festival at Koubru Leikha. They were suddenly stopped on the middle of the road by the members of the RRC who came in a car (Maruti 800).
“Without giving them any reason for the stoppage, they began to search for any drugs in their possession. Not being satisfied with the mere search in their pockets, the centre’s staff forcibly made them take off their clothes in the middle of the road. However, after no drugs were found in their possession, they allowed them to leave for their respective homes.”
Addressing media persons in this regard at the office of Community Network for Empowerment (CoNE), Keishamthong Hodam Leirak Machin, Sega Road on Sunday, the three victims narrated the incident. They said that they were forcibly made to get naked on the middle of the road by the staff and members of RRC on the ground that they were searching for drugs in their possession as the staff were aware that they (victims) were from the drug users community.
The victims also maintained that such acts of human rights violation should be seriously dealt with and drew the authorities concerned so that no such incidents recur and also take up stringent actions against the staff of the rehabilitation centre at the earliest.
Drug Users Federation for Human Rights and Justice convenor Salam Berlin who was also present during the press briefing informed that the federation intervened into the matter after a complaint was received from the victims. A team of the federation visited the RRC on Saturday to meet the officials of the centre.
On reaching the centre, it was found that the centre had indulged in “forced pick up” of drug users and kept them in their custody in the name of providing drug treatment facilities, apparently against the wishes and consent of the drug users and their families. It was also found that the centre engaged their staff (referred to as After Care staff) as security guards and gave them the “liberty to physically assault any of the clients as and when desired”. The federation team also “recovered” many wooden sticks used in beating the clients at the centre, he added.
Berlin further stated that in the course of their forced pick up activities they have also allegedly used/misused a number of applications written to the district SPs/NAB SP and officers in charge of different police stations across the state seeking assistance in their bid to rehabilitate drug users.
“They have misused the application letters without the knowledge of the police concerned thereby degrading the police force in the state. This is a serious issue which needs to be addressed with urgency, lest serious unwanted incidents creep up in future.”
Berlin, while mentioning that the officials of RRC admitted their fault during the meeting on Saturday and assured that no such incidents occur again, said that the Social Welfare Department and all other departments concerned have been time and again apprised of the prevailing issue and human rights violation of drug users community in and outside drug treatment centres.
“However, since no necessary intervention has been made in this regard we will be compelled to take up stringent actions on our own accord, to the extent of closing down rehab centres and also drag all concerned to court very soon.”
Berlin also warned of various forms of agitations including rally and sit-in-protests to draw the attention of the authority concerned.Former drug users, paraded naked