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India

Guns And Drugs: Kashmiri Youth Facing A Double-Edged Sword

There have been massive and one of the highest hauls of narcotics this year with over 1200 kilograms of different drugs being seized. 

Kashmiri Youth Facing A Double-Edged Sword
There has been a 1500 per cent increase in drug abuse in the valley in just three years. (Photo/File)

The valley of Jammu and Kashmir has been a hotspot of a variety of drug abuses mostly affecting the youth including the teenagers of Kashmir valley. There have been massive and one of the highest hauls of narcotics this year with over 1200 kilograms of different drugs being seized. 

“Before four or five years, most patients that would come to our drug de-addiction centre were abusers of cannabis another mild drug. This can be exemplified in a way that if 10 were admitted in a month back then, nine would consume cannabis and one would be an abuser of heroin. Today the case is the opposite,” said an official at the J&K Police’s Drug de-addiction facility in Central Kashmir.

While the government itself has de-addiction centres established across the districts of the union territory, few NGOs have also taken up the role. The Grooming Kashmir is one such initiative in the Srinagar district. Lila Quraishi who runs the centre says that the least that they are doing is trying to create an awareness and a facility to help undo the drug mess.

“I may not say that all the patients who come to our facility get completely treated but if there are 30 patients, at least 20 are relieved,” says Shaheena, an employee at the facility.

Officials at the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences say the spike in the number of admissions has been upward, especially after 2015. The officials said that the number of cases is dominated by the consumption of heroin. “There is a phenomenon named tip of the iceberg which implies that if you see one of the abusers in the OPD, the actual toll would almost tenfold the same,” Zoya Mir clinical psychologist at IMHANS Srinagar suggested in a media interview.

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She adds that OPDs in the IMHANS centre in Srinagar are flooded with patients and this means that the actual number of patients is way too high. “Since there is a stigma attached to it, most do not report it,” she said.

According to reports, there has been a 1500 per cent increase in drug abuse in the valley in just three years, and in just two districts studied by the IMHANS – Anantnag and Srinagar – 17,000 people are drug abusers. 

“Prevalence of any substance dependence was estimated to be 1.95% while as for any opioids, it was 1.80%. Heroin was the most common opioid with last year’s use by 84.33% of respondents. The current prevalence of injection drug use was 0.95% and heroin was the most common opioid among Injection Drug users (IDU), being used by 91.12% IDUs followed by Pentazocine (5.92%),” a study, “Pattern and prevalence of substance use and dependence in two districts of J&K” said. Reportedly drugs worth 3.7 crores are sold each day in Anantnag and Srinagar.

It added that there is poor utilization of treatment services which need to be augmented significantly at the primary care level in rural areas. More so the study suggested that most of the abusers came from economically sound families.

While doctors say that the major reason for the spike has been the easy availability of the drugs, a senior sales manager of a pharma company named Unimarck said that orders for the sedatives can be placed alone by licensed distributors who too shall supply it to chemists in numbered strips of 5,10 or at most 20. For all the strips sold, the chemist has to send the scan copy of the prescription to the company and at times even to the government.

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As reported earlier, drugs in Kashmir and the militancy in the region have been intimately connected. A link between gangsters in Punjab and Kashmiri militants has been established by the State Investigating Agency (SIA) where it has come to the fore that narcotic smugglers in Punjab are funding the terror activities in the valley.

This came to the light after the SIA filed a charge sheet on Tuesday regarding a terror funding case that was registered last year. The police have been repeatedly saying that the handlers of the terror groups are cultivating the narcotic substances in the Pakistani land, across the border, and later pushing the same product into the Kashmir valley through illegal routes.

The local operatives of these groups in Kashmir, later, sell this in the other parts of the country and the money earned through these means is used in funding the violent terror activities in the valley.

Meanwhile, another study by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) has said that 4.9 per cent of the total J&K population used opioid drugs. ORF online has also noted that the force driving this surge comes from the conflict present in the valley. It said, “many politicians and separatists are involved in drug smuggling and their benefaction has ensured that the drug lords continue to operate with ease and assurance”.

ORF added that the “draconian communications lockdown… blocking of the internet, shutting off of mobile networks, and indefinite closure of educational institutions drove more youth to such behaviour”.

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