Given the media coverage of the pledges against poppy plantation and drugs by different communities across the State in support of Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s campaign, it seems the State is winning its War on Drugs 2.0.
Notably, Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren on May 18 while speaking to media at his official residence claimed that the State’s ‘War on Drugs 2.0’ have witnessed a massive success with security forces having seized illegal drugs worth over Rs 182 crore in the international market and arrested as many as 140 drug traffickers since March 20. He also said that with the formation of the new government, the state has witnessed massive success in the ‘War on Drugs’ campaign.
Reports said that of the total 140 drug traffickers arrested 120 are men and 20 are women. Those arrested traffickers include international drug kingpins most of whom are serving a jail term for 14-15 years.
The Chief Minister further said that the security forces also destroyed a total of 380 acres of poppy cultivation within the two months period. He also said that the most encouraging part of the campaign is that many communities residing in the state, particularly in the hill areas have voluntarily joined.
It may be mentioned that for the first time in February 2021, in support of the War on Drugs, Poi (Peh) village in Ukhrul district voluntarily destroyed poppy cultivation in their area, for which the village was rewarded with Rs. 10 lakh by Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren.
Since then, the Poumais have declared on May 7 this year that their area is drug-free zone and assured that poppy plantation will be stopped in Poumai areas. The Tangkhul groups also followed suit within a couple of days. The other communities who declared most recently their areas as drug-free zones and resolved to eradicate poppy plantations in their areas are Inpui, Liangmai, Rongmei and Zeme.
A huge delegation of the Poumai tribe, led by MLA of Karong AC J Kumo Sha, Poumai Naga Union President D Dailord Pao, Poumai Naga Women’s Union president P Delilah Pao and other CSO leaders submitted a resolution of the tribe declaring Poumai areas as Drug Free Zone to Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren on May 7. The decision of the Poumais to declare a Drug Free Zone and against poppy plantation was arrived at during the Poumai General Body Meeting held on April 28, 2022, reports added.
Significantly, apex bodies of Tangkhul community, including Tangkhul Wungnao Long (TWL), Tangkhul Shanao Long (TSL), Tangkhul Katamnao Long (TKL), Tangkhul Chief Association (TCA), and Churches Leaders on May 9 called on the Chief Minister at his Secretariat in Imphal and gave their commitment and affirmation to participate in Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s declaration of war on drugs. According to the apex bodies of Tangkhul community, there are around 2,500 Tangkhul villages inhabited in the state and total area of poppy cultivation taken up in Kamjong and Ukhrul districts is above 4,000 hectares.
In another development, Tangkhul civil society organisations under the banner of apex Tangkhul Naga Long and Tangkhul Naga Wungnao Long joined hands with the state government’s ‘War on Drugs’ campaign and took a strong resolution not to allow any poppy plantation in Ukhrul district areas. The decision to this effect was taken during a one-day ‘Consultation workshop on Alternative Livelihood for the Poppy Cultivated Areas of Ukhrul district’ held on May 16 at DRDA hall, Mini Secretariat Complex.
The participants comprising Tangkhul Naga Long, Tangkhul Naga Wungnao Long, Tangkhul Shanao Long, Kuki INPI Ukhrul, Tangkhul Katamnao Saklong, and Hunphung Katamnao Long in the presence of state commissioner Devesh Deval, DC and SP Ukhrul, and various state officers took out a procession rally at around 7pm. They pledged to support the chief minister’s call for the ‘War on Drugs’ campaign by participating in the destruction of poppy plantations.
Moreover, Joint Tribe Council (JTC) and Joint Tribe Students’ Association (JTSA) on behalf of the four cognate tribes of Inpui, Liangmai, Rongmei and Zeme on May 12 submitted a representation to Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren, supporting the state government’s War on Drugs Campaign by declaring their localities as ‘Drugs and Poppy Free Zones’. The declaration stated that The Indigenous Four Cognate Tribes of Inpui, Liangmai, Rongmei and Zeme had never practiced poppy plantation nor been involved with any kind of illegal drugs since time immemorial.
“Following the sincere and righteous footsteps of our forefathers, the four Cognate Tribes of Inpui, Liangmai, Rongmei and Zeme reiterate our stand against illegal drugs and poppy plantations. The Joint Tribes also resolved to continue preserving, conserving the unadulterated forests, its resources and giving life a valuable living,” the declaration stated.
Notably, the pledges by different communities against poppy plantation and drugs continue to pour in. Sadar Hills Chiefs’ Association (SAHILCA) on May 19 submitted their pledge to unanimously support Chief Minister’s War on Drugs campaign at CM Secretariat, during which Chief Minister Biren said that the campaign will become 100 per cent successful with continuous voluntary support from public and various civil society organisations.
Addressing the media, he said that Kangpokpi district is one of the most affected districts on poppy cultivation and with the support from SAHILCA, the War on Drugs campaign is moving towards success.
Commerce and Industry Minister Nemcha Kipgen told the media that an emergency meeting organised by several CSOs on May 18 unanimously resolved to ban the illegal cultivation of poppy plants with immediate effect within the administrative jurisdiction of Kangpokpi district and declare it a Drug-Free Zone in support of Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s initiative on the War on Drugs.
It may be mentioned that earlier during his felicitation ceremony at SP Ngaimun village on May 12, Saitu Assembly Constituency MLA Haokholet Kipgen strongly advocated curbing the drug menace in Saitu and Kangpokpi district at the earliest. He urged that Kangpokpi must collectively declare war on drugs being the largest illegal poppy cultivating district is not only a mockery and insult to the people but also a destructive future for our younger generations. ‘Kangpokpi must collectively declare war on drugs.
Tribal Affairs and Hills Minister Letpao Haokip; leaders of Sadar Hill Chief Association, Kuki Students’ Organisation, Women organisations, Naga organisations based in Kangpokpi, Gorkha organisations attended the press briefing at CM Secretariat.
Following the resolution taken by the people of Kangpokpi on April 23 during a public meeting to curb the alarming drug menace in Kangpokpi town, a massive rally against drugs was held on May 19 at the district headquarters pledging to make Kangpokpi a “drugs-free” town.
On the other hand, the Kuki Chief Association (KCA), Tengnoupal district on May 19 organised a public meeting at community hall of Tuinom village, Tengnoupal district and resolved to stop and ban poppy plantation in the district in support of the ‘War on Drugs’ campaign.
Reiterating their stand against the growing menace of drugs in Moreh town, the Moreh Youth Club and Kuki Students’ Organization Moreh block on May 16 announced that they will intensify the effort on ‘War Against Drug’ in Moreh town.
Interestingly, in a meeting chaired by the United Kuki Liberation Front (UKLF), a signatory to the tripartite talk with the government, in the presence of Kuki Chief Association Chandel, Kuki Women Human Rights Organization Chandel, KSO Chandel, UZO Chandel, and Thadou Inpi Chandel, the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Chandel district on May 18 resolved to support and endorse Manipur Government’s War on Drugs campaign.
The Chandel CSOs also declared their commitment to work sincerely to eradicate poppy cultivation in and around the Chandel district and promote peaceful eco-friendly occupations as a source of livelihood in the future.
It may be mentioned that the United Kuki Liberation Front (UKLF), ‘Government of Khulmigam’ on May 14 declared to launch a ‘War on Drugs’ in Moreh town, during a meeting with CSO leaders. In a statement, UKLF stated that leaders of Hill Tribal Council, Meitei Council Moreh, Manipur Muslim Council Moreh, Tamil Sangam Moreh, Gorkha Samaj Samiti Moreh, Kuki Chief’s Association Moreh Block and other CSO leaders joined the meeting convened by the UKLF.
Now, it is very much obvious that most of the communities even including the community who have been actively involved in poppy plantations and drug smuggling have pledged against poppy plantations and drugs.
Also from Chief Minister’s claim of success of the State’s War on Drugs, it is apparent that the success is measured from the quantities of drugs seized, number of drug smugglers arrested and the areas of poppy plantations destroyed besides the pledges by different communities to stop poppy plantations in support of Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s War on Drugs 2.0.
Now, while appreciating the spirit and sincere efforts of Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam Biren’s War on Drugs 2.0, to be objective and successful, it needs to be skeptic, asked, and strategized accordingly – Are the pledges against poppy plantations and drugs really meant or just a prerequisite to get government incentives for livelihood and alternative plantation packages?
No doubt, the pledges of different communities in Manipur are important to win the War on Drugs besides the seizure of drugs, arrest of drug smugglers and exploitation of the poppy plantations. However, many experts say these are just the tip of the iceberg of the invisible international drug cartel because Manipur’s case is not an isolated one.
Therefore, the State Government’s War on Drugs 2.0 needs to have holistic approach with clear objectives and policies, and the parameters/indicators to measure its success.
Senior Editor: Imphal Review of Arts and Politics