When it comes to conviction, only the small fries involved are convicted by the court while the drug lords/main accused involved always managed to secure acquittal by using their links in the corridor of power, The 3.5 Collective writes to PM, home minister
Though the Manipur government has adopted an indifferent attitude towards outcry by the public against the December 17 verdict acquitting Lhukhosei Zou in the 2018 multi-core drug haul case, the union home ministry has taken note of grievance raised by The 3.5 Collective on increasing drug menace in the state.
Forwarding the grievance received through PMOPG portal for necessary action at the state government’s end, the union home ministry North East Division issued a directive to the chief secretary, government of Manipur on March 25, 2021. In the directive, deputy secretary NE(II) RK Pandey has asked the state government that a suitable reply may be sent to the applicant directly.
Drawing the attention of prime minister Narendra Modi and union home minister Amit Shah, The 3.5 Collective had requested the central government for action to prevent Manipur from becoming the next Golden Triangle.
It said that for almost half a century Manipur has been a transit point for illicit drugs from the infamous “Golden Triangle” to India and beyond. “In the last decade the scenario has compounded with the en-mass cultivation of poppy in the hills and opening up of manufacturing units,” it claimed. The human, ecological, social, economic and political cost of the menace could be nothing but devastating, it added.
Citing the report of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, entitled Magnitude of Substance Use, 2019, The 3.5 Collective said the tiny state of Manipur with a population of less than 0.4% of India has 14.22 % current opioids users. “The teenagers and youth are the most vulnerable and even adolescent girls are falling prey to drug abuse making their future and that of their families grim. This degradation of the societal fabric can have far-reaching consequences” It added.
In almost all the Hill Districts in Manipur poppy is cultivated en-mass with full knowledge and acquiesce of the authority concerned. Even though the land holders can be booked under the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substance Act, 1985 (ND&PS), not a single person is arrested in connection with the poppy cultivation till date, said The 3.5 Collective.
Saying that the area under poppy cultivation is expanding exponentially, The 3.5 Collective stated that the threat of the poppy cultivation also adversely affects the ecological balance, as the cultivation is done at the cost of ever increasing deforestation, excessive application of weedicides, pesticides, salination of soil and extensive use of chemical fertilizers.
It further stated that the drug usages and trafficking also have a direct relationship to the dynamics of structural violence in the state. “The money earned by the drug-lords is leading to the deterioration of societal fabric and has been giving rise to crime and the economy of violence. A significant percentage of local populations’ income generation, directly or indirectly, becomes dependent on this economy. Its corrupting influence has weakened and corroded the vital institutions of the state including the law enforcement agencies, the judiciary and the legislature,” it added.
The 3.5 Collective also said the role of drug money during election and formation of government is widely talked about amongst the public. The illicit drug trafficking and narco-terrorism in Manipur have grown enormously in sophistication and volume and have undoubtedly emerged as a significant long-term security threats not only for the North-eastern region but also the whole of India, it added.
Further the collective said, “The Manipur State Policy on Psychoactive Substances 2019 is rather weak on the Supply Reduction component. It is ironical that despite of the magnitude of the problem Manipur is yet to come out with a comprehensive rule under the ND&PS Act, 1985.” ‘
It seems the institutions are kept deliberately weak so that the powerful operatives inside State and Non-State power structures can thrive from the illicit trade, it added.
Listing multi crore drug haul cases involving of the high-profile operatives including minister Okram Henry, Colonel Ajay Chaudhary, Seikholen Haokip son of T.N Haokip MLA, chairman of Chandel ADC Lhukhosei Zou, Ningkhangam Awungsi, Wungreingan Awungsi and Kyaw Kyaw Niang @ Abdul Rahim of Kawhmu village, Moha Rangoon Myanmar The 3.5 Collective said that none of the above mentioned accused is convicted till date. Due to the repeated leniency shown to these high profile accused the general public of Manipur has lost faith in the system to curve the menace, it added.
When it comes to conviction, only the small fries involved are convicted by the court while the drug lords/main accused involved always managed to secure acquittal by using their links in the corridor of power. This suspicion is further strengthened when Lhukhosei Zou, who was caught red-handed with a huge amount of narcotic drugs from his official quarter, was summarily acquitted by the ND&PS court vide its judgment/order dated 17/12/2020, it said.
The same lenience of the court toward drug traffickers is amply manifested again in another judgment that followed suit. This pertains to an incident where a huge seizure of WY tablets worth Rs 400 crore in the international market from Thoubal District, it said. Based on the information provided by one truck driver Hussain, police arrested a Myanmar national Kyaw Kyaw Naing from Imphal Airport. But all the accused are summarily discharged by the Special Court of ND&PS, Thoubal vide Spl. T. Case No. 12 of 2020 dated 20 January 2021, it added.
Many students’ unions, women groups, CSOs and almost every right thinking citizen of Manipur is deeply agitated by this total breakdown of the system as much as it is unable to convict the drug traffickers. Vehement protest has been raging throughout the nook and corners of Manipur against the acquittal of Lhukhosei Zou demanding the Government of Manipur to appeal against the judgment in the High Court, it said.
Under these circumstances, The 3.5 Collective said it requested the central government to do whatever is necessary to ensure that Manipur is saved from the clutches of the invisible, yet highly powerful drug cartel; and prevent it from becoming the next Golden Triangle.
At the minimum, the government of Manipur should be persuaded to go for an appeal to the High Court against the judgment dated 17 December 2020 in Special trial case no. 100 of 2018, it demanded.