Imphal Review of Arts and Politics

Dept of Environment and Climate Change
Backyard marijuana plant.

Anti-drugs Lobby in Manipur is Demonizing Drugs Via Ill-Conceived Campaigns that do not Address State’s Humanitarian Concerns

Marijuana is only next to spirituality and god, that’s the kind of faith many people have in marijuana especially in India. And the government laws can’t attack one’s faith for sure. Marijuana smokers and sellers or those who support legalisation take themselves as next to none except god and spiritual ways of living, in case they understand spirituality and are into it, which most of them are in India. But otherwise, they think they are the best leaders in this world, in case those who are in the knowledge, political or medical profession have missed this point. Mistakenly due to government propaganda and some by private anti-marijuana lobby, which is loud, aggressive and unceasing, the general populace who would think otherwise without being forcefully drawn into this marijuana-use debate, are now wrongly thinking that stigmatizing marijuana users is the right and the law-sanctioned thing to do, even equating it as a social and moral paradigm. But this is not so and if you have been with any marijuana user, he’s the most calm, sober, thoughtfully intelligent and practical person who never believed in the rat race that’s going on and destroying millions of lives in the world. Even spiritually, the part of society that’s not using marijuana are more morally degraded and commit untold crimes against humanity by way of their greed for money, power, social position and outright heartless abuse and exploitation of the common man; whereas a marijuana user does not believe in these material things and would rather in a humane fashion be seated with the common lot of people. There would be hardly an instance where a marijuana smoker thinks himself deserving exclusive treatment; he is usually a person with high moral and intelligence quotient.


Drugs consequences (Courtesy SAFER)

Marijuana grows in the backyard in many Indian locales. In Manipur also it is a commonly available plant. Now, the government and anti-marijuana activists are constantly drumming into the ears of the public in such places that this plant should be destroyed, and this will obviously cause mental health problems for the people in such marijuana growing places, because even as kids of today’s age or of a past generation they are living with this plant like other plants growing everywhere. Imagine the mental health issues arising if someone were to say destroy all the perup or coriander plants in the environment. That’s just not possible and when the government allots an image to the marijuana plant it becomes not just a physical action of uprooting all the marijuana plants but also sub-consciously everyone living in the areas with marijuana, who are not smoking also, will start getting a sense of guilt at a community level generated by the bad name given to marijuana. How can you give a bad name to a plant? Does it make sense? The younger generation will start living early with a guilt and inferiority complex that they live in a land where marijuana grows. And those of whom who get obsessed with the idea of destroying marijuana, will only be doing an impossible job, like Sisyphus rolling up a rock to the heights only to see it rolling down again, because marijuana plants grow back every year, or whatever the seasonal cycle is. So common sense tells us especially in this age of many plants and animals becoming extinct, that one, whether the government or private organisations should not try to cause harm to the minds of people living in a land which grows marijuana naturally and abundantly, by pushing them into such a difficult predicament of having to decide whether marijuana can or cannot be totally destroyed from their backyard and other lands nearby them.

Talking from a seat of power like government, police or judiciary may be easy and all official orders might be comfortably passed down, but from the point of view of the common man it’s like asking him to pluck out every patch of grass he sees in his locality compulsorily. It is sheer mental violence caused to another human being and would be nothing but indulgence if people carry on with the war on drugs in Manipur. The only fallout of such a war on drugs campaign will be an undesirable occasion for increase in mental health problems in the state. I guess the government has not considered these things in detail before launching their campaign of war on drugs.

Instead, a collateral damage can be instituted to help those smokers and sellers who have been affected by this campaign. In a hypothetical situation how much can a man or woman enjoying his or her kitchen gardening stop themselves, because of some weird reason, from plucking only the tomatoes whereas they are permitted to pluck all other vegetables growing there. In the same way it’s natural for a person who lives in a particular environment to pluck marijuana for whatever his need. How much control would the government or law expect him or her to have over themselves and keep away from the marijuana plants. No mortal can do it and so this law and the attempt to implement it is arbitrary and of course silly also. In a different profession, let’s stop to ask how much control a politician has over themselves. It’s not possible and we know that, even by casually observing that any profession has its failures and none of them is anywhere near any perfection in Manipur, the kind which we may be expecting of marijuana harvesters.

All systems, administration or otherwise, are a matter of exercising control over your juniors; don’t expect so much from the common people by asking them to accomplish self-control till the absurd point of not living with plants that grow naturally in their backyard and dwelling place. Surely this point regarding self-control by citizens towards their natural affinities to environment should be rediscovered in a new light. And then it’s a matter of their identity also. Identity, collective or individual, is formed by the environment you are brought up in, usually without a choice. So, we can’t have institutions which erase or try to terminate someone’s identity, individual or collective as a case may be. In trying to exterminate drugs growing plants the anti-lobby are only hurting the collective minds of such peaceful and innocent people, especially in the hills. Which again gives rise to speculations if it is a politically or racially motivated campaign considering the hill-valley divide over ethnic land and influence in the state which has become a talking point since some time back. And especially since the marijuana and similar plants growing in Manipur is mostly in the hills’ lands.

Especially in the hills each plant goes with the scenic beauty and quietude of the place which helps the inhabitants to think better. Government institutions or others just cannot launch a campaign like war on drugs in the hills, because it inadvertently harms the natural peaceful environment and thinking space of the hills. The campaign is disrupting the peace of the state in a larger context. The campaign has no meaning, sober intellect or plain common sense – it’s only a paranoia against a common plant. This campaign is ill-conceived and has no laudable intellect or humanitarian concern.

People are separated for long years or even a lifetime from their family due to such harsh laws like NDPS Act. So much collateral the government institutions owe to such persons. These persons are not wilfully or otherwise causing harm to anyone as the law perceives them to be doing. It’s just the illusion of this, or a scarcity that is created in the drugs market due to government policy, which invades the minds of drugs users and they go desperate at times thinking they need more doses of their drugs of choice. It’s like buying rice at a high price when the godown owners start hoarding and doing black market. When there’s scarcity everyone buys more, it’s natural. Why blame the smokers or sellers because they themselves are a puppet in the hands of the government policy which is impossibly trying to manage a goods flow and a natural existence which can’t possibly be manipulated by them. The Indian government would do better to scrap this legislation, and in Manipur it’s better the war on drugs campaign is brought to a logical end.

Then there’s a lifetime of rehabilitation and stigma for the drugs users after coming out of the government run Sajiwa Jail drugs rehabilitation centre or from an equally oppressive and mindless private rehabs. They lose so many years, suffer social ostracization in jobs, employment, studies, grants, in fact in all avenues. The days of NDPS Act and residential rehabilitation should in all fairness come to an end now. Rehabilitation, how it’s conceived at the moment, is not justice. One should accept a more open society now. If we can imagine a society without the NDPS Act we can go further to think of restorative justice where we can settle the collateral damage that ensues to victims of the arbitrary drugs law, who are at the moment made to resign to a lifetime of pain, misunderstanding, and being hopelessly agreeable to the discomforts of a system that gives them no choice at all.

Drug users are forced by family, government doctors, and unimaginative psychiatrists to make weekly rounds to so-called mental clinics and have to take strong medicines that affect the mind, as they have no other choice against the threat of social, including family and employment, ostracization if they do not obey. Certainly, a person knows if they are ill enough to need medicines, and if they have somehow reached a stage of madness due to ill-treatment, then anyway no medicine can help them. No, the drugs users do not need medicine when they do not desire to take it. Whenever was medicine supposed to be forced on somebody; that is an atrocious detail of so-called rehabilitation. They shouldn’t be forced. All they need is a healthy and nutritious diet to be strong enough not to fall sick, and that the family and others can manage for him or her, in case the user wants and in case the family is willing to provide it. But it usually comes down to whatever food and paid or unpaid work the society might give them, if they do whatever their so-called well-wishers demand of him or her, otherwise they don’t get anything. It’s truly a feudal mindset in Manipur, whatever the class of society we talk about, in the case of ill-treatment of drugs users who are deprived of all humanitarian avenues due to a crude and insensitive law like NDPS Act that does not address the issue of drugs use and sales in the right light.

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