The valley of Kashmir—particularly the northern Kupwara district—is rapidly turning into a major hub of the narcotics smuggled in from Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to the official figures, heroin worth over Rs 300 crore has been seized in the valley in the last 16 months even as the volume of the drugs smuggled in, produced and traded in the same period is estimated to be of the order of Rs 600 crore.
“59 kilos of heroin, 51 kilos of brown sugar and 355 kilos of charas (marijuana) has been seized in Kashmir from 1 January 2020 to 20 April 2021. This is in addition to fukki and processed drugs in the form of capsules, tablets and injections recovered from different individuals and gangs during the same period”, Inspector General of Police Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, revealed to India Narrative.
According to the official statistics, Police have also seized 2,000 kg of fukki, 73,800 drug tablets and capsules and 245 vials of injections besides cash worth Rs 14820248 (1.48 crore) from the persons dealing with drugs and psychotropic substances since 1 January 2020.
1,498 persons have been booked and arrested in 946 FIRs under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. Charge sheets have been produced against 530 persons in different courts in the Union Territory.
The revenue district of Kupwara, comprising Kupwara and Handwara Police districts, is emerging as the epicentre of drugs smuggled with its advantage of being contiguous to the border areas of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). 19 kg of heroin has been seized in Kupwara and 22 kg in Handwara in addition to 10.3 kg of charas in Kupwara and 7.4 kg in Handwara. Police have also recovered 48.5 kg of brown sugar in Kupwara and 0.27 kg in Handwara.
Of the cash recovered from the people engaged in drug smuggling and trafficking, Rs 1,37,91,738 has been recovered in Handwara alone.
Seventy NDPS-related FIRs have been registered in Kupwara and 44 in Handwara, even as 25 cases have been chargesheeted in Kupwara and 18 in Handwara and 86 persons have been arrested in Kupwara and 69 in Handwara.
One of the high profile cases in Handwara has been assigned to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) which has completed a part of the investigation, taken custody of the accused traffickers from the Police and arrested some of them. The NIA has filed its charge-sheet for prosecution in a designated court in Jammu.
Senior Army and Police officers maintained that the entire Kashmir valley was now affected by the drugs and narcotics being smuggled in from Pakistan and Afghanistan, traded, consumed and also produced locally.
“However, there is one marked difference between North Kashmir and South Kashmir. Almost the entire quantity of drugs in circulation in the North is smuggled in from Afghanistan and Pakistan, mainly to convert it into terror funding. Contrarily, the drugs in circulation in South Kashmir are procured out of the poppy straw grown on large chunks of land in Pulwama, Kulgam and Anantnag districts”, said one Senior Superintendent of Police.
“Militants, growers and traders (of drugs) are not by and large linked to one another in South Kashmir but they do not disturb others. This is different from North Kashmir where terror funds are generated out of the large scale smuggling of the high-value heroin”, said the SSP.
Afghanistan is the source of more than 90% of world’s opium supply and more than 95% of the European opium supply since 2001.
Since the United States military occupation of Afghanistan in 2001, followed by the NATO occupation in 2003, opium production has increased exponentially in Afghanistan. According to Global Research, October 17, 2018, the area under opium cultivation has increased to as much as 3,28,000 hectares in Afghanistan in 2017.
While 25% of the drugs produced locally in the southern Kashmir are believed to be consumed, mostly by the youths in the age group of 14-34 years, around 75% of the productions is smuggled out to traders and consumers in different Indian States. Of the high-value drugs smuggled in from Afghanistan and Pakistan, 10% of the quantity is believed to be for local consumption and 90% for high-end clients in Amritsar, Chandigarh, New Delhi, Mumbai and other Indian cities.
According to senior Police officials, including Director General of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, Dilbag Singh, gangs of professional smugglers have been receiving drug consignments through different modes, including underground tunnels. In some cases, drones are believed to have dropped the consignments along the International Border in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts in Jammu and Pathankot and Gurdaspur districts in Punjab.
During its investigation in different cases in Jammu and Kashmir, the Enforce Directorate (ED) has also detected smuggling of heroin through the cross-LoC barter trade. It has been officially asserted that the proceeds of the contraband were being used for funding of the secessionist militancy. In the wake of such detections, and finally a suicide attack on the CRPF on the Srinagar-Jammu highway in February 2019, the cross-LoC trade and travel has been completely suspended.