Drug usage is an ever-growing issue in Kashmir among the youth. The opium production in the valley for local consumption and commercial sale to other states, even with the involvement of local authorities is a well-known fact. The profits earned from this commercial narcotic venture have been shared by the local terrorist outfits and their commanders have been huge beneficiaries of the trade. Pakistan, since a long time, has been trying to convert Kashmir into a hub of narco-terrorism, and has successfully, through the Line of Control (LOC) installed a network of terrorism funded by drugs in North Kashmir, with militants carrying arms and ammunition, training the youth and creating associates in the Valley, abetting militancy (Ahuja, 2020).
Why and How are Drugs Reaching Kashmir?
With China and Pakistan axis at an all-time high, Pakistan has been stronger than before and has been using a variety of tactics to fund its terrorist activities in Kashmir by providing funds, assistance and substance abuse. The Sino-Pak Nexus is greatly dependent on the Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) region and they have been using the region as a linchpin for stymieing India’s growth and fomenting issues in its Achilles Heel. Drug smuggling, thus, has become a great cause of concern in the Union Territory, creating security threats and weakening the International Border. Afghanistan and Pakistan have had a huge role to play in the on-goings in the region, as the former supplies drugs and well as men, material and training and their militant networks are strong enough to penetrate India’s borders through North Kashmir that has been lapped up by the persistent drug addiction and abuse and brainwashing. Moreover, post the abrogation of Article 370 in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan has been strongly engaged in giving a fillip to the drug sponsored terrorism in Kashmir with help from Afghanistan, mostly through good quality heroin that is then sent to various parts of the country through their associates based in those areas.
Obscured among regular merchandise or in secret niches, these narcotics are sent from the drug corridor in North Kashmir to Punjab, Gujarat, Mumbai and Rajasthan in transportation trucks and vehicles. The cross-border drug menace has spread its tentacles far and wide in India, with drugs also making their way into Kashmir through Gujarat via sea route from Pakistan, in trucks carrying products from mountain salt to cumin seeds and apples.
Prior to Indian Government’s 2019 order for suspension of the cross border trade that took place via the LoC, the drug mafia was active through this route. Heroin has been found in consignments of dress material in Uri and hawai chappals that were later dumped in Lal Chowk area of Srinagar.
Landmark Case Study: Attari Border (2019)
The heroin haul in a Pakistani truck at the Attari border in Amritsar on June 26, 2019 by the Customs Officials, is a landmark event to show how narco-terrorism became well-embedded in the fabric of Kashmir. The truck driver had unloaded six hundred bags of pink salt which seemed suspicious to the officials and after investigation, it turned out to be 15 bags containing 532 kilograms of heroin worth Rs 2000 crores. The case was handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which found out that there was huge involvement across the border, from Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the narcotics racket; the profits from the scandal being used for funding the terror module in Kashmir. The NIA found linkages between Amritsar-based businessman, Gurpinder Singh for whom the consignment was apparently meant and a Kashmiri man, Tariq Lone who had linkages with the Noor and Noor Company based in Pakistan. From various interrogations, what came to light was that the drug cartel passed through various channels through Afghanistan-Pakistan and Kashmir. Loads of packages of other goods and mundane consignments prior to this recovery must have contained these shipments of heroin, according to the investigating authorities who discovered an ostentatious network of hawala operators helping the narcotics lobby. The huge network had linkages to Dubai and Kashmiris who had crossed over to Pakistan to become terrorists.
The Inside Story: A Look Into Other Case Studies
The persistent issue of drug abuse in Kashmir again came to limelight on the fateful evening of June 11, 2020 when the police personnel in Handwara town in North Kashmir stopped a car sans a registration plate. The passenger seat of the car had a black coloured bag safely tucked under it, which on further investigation contained over six kilograms of heroin and twenty lakhs in cash. The occupant of the seat was identified as Abdul Momin Peer and subsequent raids point out that the drug syndicate spans his entire family. His father-in-law, Ifthikar Andrabi and brother were arrested in successive raids, with 21 kilograms heroin and Rs 1 crore cash recovered from various properties in the family’s name. The seized drugs are estimated to be worth Rs 100 Crores. The story of poppy and guns of Kashmir was transferred to the NIA who found that Peer’s father-in-law has a number of relatives across the LoC in Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir, close to North Kashmir (Handwara region). It has been established by the agencies that they have links with the terrorist outfit, Lashkar-e-Toiba through which the high-level narcotic consignments have been sourced by the family from the Afg-Pak belt and then sent to other states in India from Kashmir, hereby, the profits of the narco-trade being used for furthering terrorism in the valley.
The profits of a recent drug consignment of Rs 5 crores to Amritsar wherein more than three crores were distributed among the ground workers in the valley and the terrorists of Lashkar-e-Toiba has been an important case study of the investigation of this drug scandal. According to the intelligence agencies, this is just the tip of the iceberg of the J&K especially North Kashmir’s drug romance and its narco-terrorism. The rampant drug trade has been a major source of funding to the terrorism in Kashmir as the recent cases have highlighted and outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Hizbul Mujahideen operating in the valley have been seen to be greatly involved in this narco-terrorism tête-à-tête. With further investigations and newer facts being unearthed, the NIA found another key player in the drug peddling from Hyderpora, Kashmir: Afaq Ahmad Wani from whom they recovered Rs 30 lakhs in cash and three kilos of heroin. Interestingly, the accused is a bank manager by profession.
As evident from the various interrogations and recoveries made by the investigation agencies, North Kashmir has, hence, become a safe haven for the terrorist outfits and the narco-terrorism is on its peak in the region, the profits from the drug consortia providing the basis for the development and deepening of the terrorist activities and associations in the valley. Moreover, the issue does not end here as the drug peril is spreading its roots in various parts of India, creating an appalling security threat for the state. The drug issue has extremely dark undertones to it and the need is for a coordinated and strategic approach by the authorities and government, to stem the issues at the ground level.
Ahuja, N. B. (2020, July 18). Cross border narco-terror becoming a major concern for India. THE WEEK.
Hussain, A. (2020, June 27). ‘Narco-terror’ module busted in Kashmir, 2 held with Rs 65 crore narcotics and weapons. Hindustan Times, Srinagar.
Pandita, R. (2020, September 11). Guns and Poppy. OPEN, pp. 26-31.