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Destruction of poppy plants in Churachandpur district

Despite Pledges by Villagers Against Poppy Plantation and Government’s Continued War on Drugs, the Scourge Still Rampant in Manipur Hills

Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s Manipur government has intensified the War on Drugs in the state with more forces joining the campaign in rooting out the drug menace in the state.

Chief Minister Nongthombam chaired a meeting with Assam Riffles, NIA, NCB, NAB, Police, and Home Department to discuss issues and strategies to combat drug menace at the CM’s Secretariat in Imphal on December 29.

“We are joining forces to strengthen the ‘war on drugs’ campaign and leaving no stone unturned to root out this menace from the state. I urge the people of the state to cooperate and further extend support to the campaign with utmost seriousness and commitment. We must protect our youths from drugs and leave a better future for the coming generations,” Chief Minister Biren posted on Facebook.

Moreover, Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren on December 29 also chaired a review meeting on a project proposal of Horticulture and Soil Conservation Ddepartment for alternative to jhum and taking up terrace cultivation in the hill areas of the state at the CM’s Secretariat, Imphal.

The Chief Minister said in a Facebook post that the meeting deliberated on replacing illegal poppy cultivation with high-quality value crops in jhum areas with an integrated approach and to bring a permanent replacement of illegal poppy cultivation. The meeting also discussed developing a permanent farming system through the construction of terraces which will enhance the income of farmers and improve the economy of hill villagers, the CM said in a Facebook post.

Amid the claims of success of Manipur Government’s War on Drugs started from 2018 by the Bharatiya Jana Party (BJP) Government of Manipur led by Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren, reports said that around 18,000 acres of illicit poppy, cultivated mostly in the mountainous areas were destroyed by the various law enforcing agencies including Manipur police in between 2017-2022.

The said area of destruction of poppy plantations can be considered as just the tip of the iceberg of poppy planttions in Manipur. Imphal Review earlier on June 11, 2022 also published based on a research report that while poppy cultivation declines in Myanmar, it has significantly increased in Manipur over the last 15 years.

Notably, after Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren on February 5, 2021 announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakhs to Poi Village in Ukhrul district in recognition and appreciation for the noble initiative of their spontaneous destruction of poppy cultivation in support of Manipur Government’s War on Drugs and pledged to make a ‘poppy free village’, many coomunity based organisations and village chiefs in the hills follow the suit.

Apex bodies of the Tangkhul community of Ukhrul district including Tangkhul Wongnao Long (TWL), Tangkhul Shanao Long (TSL), Tangkhul Katamnao Long (TKL), Tangkhul Chief Association (TCA), and church leaders called on the chief minister at his secretariat in Imphal and gave their commitment and affirmation to participate in the CM’s declaration of war on drugs.

Then, the Poumai community of Senapati district also joined the chorus. Nex, the Joint Tribe Council (JTC) & Joint Tribe Students’ Association (JTSA) on behalf of the four cognate tribes of Inpui, Liangmai, Rongmei and Zeme based in Tamenglong district submitted a declaration to Chief Minister, supporting the state government’s campaign by declaring Poumai inhabited areas as a ‘Drug and Poppy Free Zone’.

The Sadar Hills Chiefs Association (SAHILCA) also had to give their pledges against the poppy plantation in support of the Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s War on Drugs.

At last all tribal communities including Kuki-Chin-Mizo groups herded by respectives MLAs and leaders started giving pledges to join the War on Drugs capampaign.

However, many observers and analysts on Manipur Government’s War on Drugs were very skeptic about the pledges made by the community based organisations and village chiefs.

And recently Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren was infuriated to see a video footage of wide spread deforestation and poppy plantation camouflaged with peas and declares all out war against poppy plantation and drugs.

Consequently, the Manipur Government has started arrest of village chiefs under whose villages poppy plantations are found.

Selsi village heads – Village Secretary David Kipgen, 40, son of late Jangkhohao Kipgen and Vice Chairman Henkholun Kipgen, 62, son of late Khohen Kipgen – who has been arrested for cultivating poppy at a hillside of Selsi village at Kangpokpi Assembly Constituency in Kangpokpi district have been remanded in judicial custody sfor 15 days and ent to Sajiwa Central Jail on December 29 after producing before Special Judge NDPS Senapati.

Interestingly, the two village heads were summoned and detained on December 22 for taking statements in connection with widespread poppy cultivation at Selsi village but escaped from Kangpokpi Police Station. Selsi village is located at a distance of around 34 km west of Kangpokpi Police station on IT road. Following this, officer in charge Henminthang Kipgen of Kangpokpi Police Station, sub inspector SL Seiminthang, VDF personnel Paojamang and Thangjagin Chiru have been suspended from duties.

Both village heads were apprehended again on the evening of December 23 by Kangpokpi Police. They were earlier produced before JMIC Kangpokpi and remanded in Police custody for smooth investigation of the case.

Meanwhile, another village chief, Kamkhosei Haokip, 48, son of late Otjathang Haokip from Songpi Village in Churachandpur district who was arrested on December 23 for facilitating poppy cultivation within his village was released on bail on December 29 under medical grounds by Sessions Judge and NDPS Special Judge Churachandpur Lamkhanpau Tonsing, casting doubt on the progress of the state government’s War on Drugs campaign.

On the other hand, Letkholal Khongsai, the chief of D Lhangjol village in Churachandpur district was arrested and poppy cultivation found in the hill range of his village was destroyed by a team led by the Deputy Commissioner of the district on December 29. The total poppy cultivated land is estimated to be about 15 acres and poppy plants worth Rs 90 lakh were destroyed. As many as 10 matured stems of poppy with pods and about 40 kg of fertilizers were seized from the spot, reports said.

Manipur police has destroyed large areas of poppy plantations across the state in December. They also arrested the chief of Thinghangjang village in Churachandpur district in illegal trade case.

A team of Kangpokpi district police led by its district SP and SP, NAB along with a team of 200 recruits from Manipur Police Training Centre (MPTC) and 1 Coy of Manipur Rifles and IRB conducted massive poppy destruction drive on the western hill range of Selsi village, Kangpokpi district. During the drive, seven huts used for keeping materials used in poppy cultivation including fertilizers, salt packets, herbicides along with materials were burnt down, police sources said.

The whole operation was conducted under the spot supervision of DGP, P Doungel; ADGP, law and order, L Kailun and IGP Zone I, Themthing Ngashangva.

Meanwhile, a team of Churachandpur district police, along with 1st IRB, conducted a mass poppy destruction drive in the forest area of Thinghangjang village, Churachandpur district. During the drive, around 65 acres of poppy plantation was destroyed and burnt down on the spot. The police also arrested an accused identified as one Kamsei Jaokip, 48, son of Otthang and chief of Thinghangjang village. A case has been registered in connection with the incident.

District police, Ukhrul along with 6th Manipur Rifles, NAB and Forest department have also destroyed around 80 acres of poppy cultivation in three different areas of the district in December.

The team destroyed around 20 acres of poppy cultivation at Ringui (Tungou) hill range on December 3 and 7; another around 20 acres of poppy cultivation at Champhung hill range on December 14 and 15; and over 40 acres of poppy cultivation at Champhung Tora hill range on December 20 to 22.

During the destruction drive, no poppy cultivators were found. However, a few individuals who were earlier residing at the hill range of Champhung-Tora have been identified, details of the land owner of the hill range were collected and verification of the same is going on, police said.

Kangpokpi district police along with NAB, forest department, Assam Rifles also destroyed about 10 acres of illicit poppy cultivation in Molkon and Phulaijang hill range under the jurisdiction of Saikul police station on December 23.

As a part of the Manipur government’s ‘War on Drugs’ campaign, the state police along with state forest department and Border Security Forces destroyed illegal poppy plantations at NP Khullen, B Gamnom hill range, Kangpokpi district on December 27. The combined team destroyed by cutting and uprooting poppy plants grown in an area of land measuring about 30 acres.

Despite the pledges made by a number of community based organisations and village chiefs against illegal poppy plantation and full support to the Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s War On Drugs; and Manipur Government’s continued War on Drugs, poppy plantation in Manipur Hills continues to be rampant.

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