Even as the State governments of the north-eastern States are cracking down on the expanding illegal drug rackets in the region, disquieting developments on the anti-drug front in Manipur is a matter of concern to the agencies fighting the drug war and the society at large. Manipur which shares an international border with Myanmar is considered to be a major conduit for trans-shipment of illegal drugs like heroin and brown sugar which are produced illegally in the infamous Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia. Of late security agencies have busted some brown sugar manufacturing outlets, besides seizing large quantities of contraband drugs during shipment. Most of these illegal drugs are finding their way to Assam and onwards to the Indian mainland. The arrest of a Manipur drug cartel leader Sangeetha Devi with drugs and Rs 75 lakh in cash from a Guwahati hotel recently revealed the extensive network of the drug dealers. A large number of young people in Assam and the region are today falling prey to narcotic substances, thereby giving rise to various social problems.
At such a critical juncture of the war against drugs, the judgement of a Special Court on Narcotics and Drugs relating to a multi-crore-rupee case dating back to 2018 has come as a bolt from the blue to the investigating agencies as well as the social organizations of Manipur who have vehemently protested the judgement and have urged the Governor and Chief Minister to move an appeal in the Manipur High Court against the verdict. Significantly, the Manipur Police had launched a major operation under the leadership of ASP Thounajam Brinda at the house of Lhukhosei Zou, Chandel Autonomous Council chairman resulting in the seizure of illegal drugs worth Rs 27 crore. ASP Brinda was awarded the Chief Minister’s Gallantry Medal for cracking the sensational drug case. However, there was little to cheer about for the investigating team as the ruling BJP council chairman was given bail first on health ground and then he jumped bail before surrendering to the court on the plea that he was kidnapped by a militant organization. The Special Court’s December 18 verdict acquitting Zou and six others on the ground that the investigation was ‘unsatisfactory’ has greatly demoralized the investigating agencies who were already under intense political pressure to go soft on the accused. Brinda who had revealed in the social media about the pressure being exerted on her has after the verdict returned the Gallantry Medal as the court had said that the investigating agencies could not do their work satisfactorily. With students, youth, women and social organizations coming out to protest against the alleged politician-drug syndicate nexus, the Biren Singh-led BJP alliance Government in the State is definitely on the back foot. All eyes are now on the Government’s response to the demand for filing an appeal against the Special Court’s judgement.