By eradicating illegal poppy and cannabis cultivation comprehensively and effectively through the deployment of the Armed Forces, the government (and the Armed Forces) can not only dispel suspicions and distrust, but also contribute significantly to the lasting peace, security, and well-being of Manipur
By Dr. Marc Nongmaithem
Manipur, a state nestled in the northeastern part of India, is grappling with a profound ethnic crisis that has been aggravated by the unlawful cultivation of poppy and cannabis in its hilly terrain. As the poppy harvest season approaches, it becomes crucial for Manipur’s residents to join hands with various stakeholders and call upon the Central Government and the Home Ministry to deploy the Armed Forces in eliminating these illicit plantations. This urgency stems from the fact that the illicit drug trade has significantly contributed to the ongoing crisis, perpetuating violence and instability in the region. It is imperative to emphasize the need for eradicating these unlawful plantations, addressing the plight of displaced individuals, and seeking a targeted solution to Manipur’s current crisis.
Manipur’s natural beauty, specially the hills, have been marred by the illegal cultivation of poppy and cannabis. As the poppy harvest season approaches, there is growing concern that drug production and trafficking will intensify, exacerbating the already fragile situation. The proceeds from the drug trade have been the main source of funding for various insurgent groups, perpetuating conflict and instability in the region as we see today. The drug trade has attracted criminal elements, including drug cartels and armed groups, who have a vested interest in maintaining the current status quo.
The ongoing crisis has resulted in the displacement of numerous individuals and families, turning them into Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). These displaced people are now living in precarious conditions, struggling to make ends meet and lacking a sense of purpose in life. The lack of government efforts for their rehabilitation and welfare is a pressing concern, and many IDPs are contemplating extreme measures, including suicide, due to the perceived apathy by the authorities. The number of IDPs in various relief camps is gradually increasing due to the continued and sporadic violence erupting from time to time. There is no clear plan from the government to help these IDPs return to their homes peacefully or to put an end to the violence once and for all. The status quo persists, and so does the violence and the rampant illegal cultivation of cannabis and poppies in the hills. In other words, the current measures and policy deployed in Manipur to restore peace is not working!
While the Armed Forces have established a buffer zone and maintained a semblance of peace in certain conflict-ridden areas of Manipur, it is clear that these measures are temporary and insufficient to bring about a lasting solution. Violence continues to erupt sporadically, and the root cause of the problem—illegal drug plantations—remains largely unaddressed.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) gives the Indian Army broad powers to operate in designated “disturbed areas.” However, these powers are not unrestricted, and they seem to be subject to directives from the central government. In the hills of Manipur, illegal poppy plantations are thriving, apparently with the knowledge of the nearby Armed Forces deployments. The Armed Forces appear to be turning a blind eye to this, citing the need for specific orders from higher authorities before taking action. This is despite the fact that the Armed Forces has been busting drug transporters within the state and beyond. However, they have hardly busted any illegal cannabis and poppy plantations. Similarly, CM Biren’s War on Drugs initiatives have been busting transporters and growers of poppy and poppy products, but there have been no cases of illegal cannabis plantations being destroyed. These inconsistencies raise questions about the government’s true commitment to resolve the ongoing ethnic crisis in Manipur.
The people of Manipur, along with various stakeholders, must unite and demand that the Central Government and the Home Ministry take decisive action against illegal drug plantations. The urgency of this call is underscored by the impending poppy harvest season, which threatens to further exacerbate the drug problem and the associated violence in Manipur. A “surgical strike” on these illegal drug plantations would be the most effective way to deal with the current problem. This would involve a coordinated effort by the Central Government and Armed Forces to destroy the plantations and arrest the perpetrators. The crisis in Manipur, fueled by illegal poppy and cannabis plantations, has persisted for far too long. It is imperative that the Central Government and the Home Ministry listen to the unified voice of Manipur’s residents and take decisive action to destroy these illegal plantations. If the Central Government fails to take swift action, it will be seen as condoning the drug mafia and its activities.
Therefore, the Central Government must come up without fail, with a precise and effective “surgical” approach to tackle the root cause of the present ethnic crisis in Manipur. Eradicating illegal poppy and cannabis plantations by deploying the Armed Forces is “the crucial step” that is missing or being ignored by the Central Government. This would certainly break the backbone of the present narco-terrorism and would significantly undermine the financial resources of armed groups and criminal networks in Manipur. By eradicating illegal poppy and cannabis cultivation comprehensively and effectively through the deployment of the Armed Forces, the government (and the Armed Forces) can not only dispel suspicions and distrust, but also contribute significantly to the lasting peace, security, and well-being of Manipur.
(Dr Marc Nongmaithem is an informed/concerned citizen who loves to write on issues of public importance. The opinion expressed here are the writer’s own and does not represent the views of TFM )