A 22-year-old auto driver from Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama has finally overcome his drug addiction after two years of struggle. The two years of heroin addiction shattered his life and his family.
After spending a year at Srinagar’s drug de-addiction centre, he is now hoping to rebuild his life.
“I was injecting heroin regularly. Two people from my area convinced me that the substance would help me to get rid of cigarettes. Eventually, I became addicted and ruined my life,” says the 22-year-old.
The man said he has given information about a drug cartel to the authorities and hopes they get busted so the drug problem in Kashmir can be controlled.
“They are even luring young kids into drugs. Most of the drug abusers steal money from their families – they beat their parents. I was earning as driver and my whole earnings would go into buying heroin. I also had around 5 lakh savings which was spent to buy drugs” the man says.
According to the police, the cross-border drug smuggling has become a major challenge for the government. The drug is money is being used to fund terrorism in Kashmir, said police.
Despite a massive offensive against cross border drug smuggling from, the number of drug addicts is showing a manifold increase in Kashmir.
The first lead of drug money being used to fund terrorism came in March 2021 after National Investigation Agency busted a drug syndicate in Handwara area of Kashmir. The investigation led to the arrest of a BSF officer posted near Line of Control. The anti-terror agency also recovered Rs 91 Lakh from Romesh Kumar, BSF sub-inspector in Samba district. The cash was part of the proceeds of drug trafficking and was meant to fund terrorists of Lashkar and Hizbul Mujahideen.
In last one year, Jammu and Kashmir police have arrested more than 2,700 drug peddlers and filed 1850 FIRs.
“We now see 150 to 170 patients daily. This is unusual in our centre. Five or six years ago, we used to see only five patients daily. Even those five patients would consume painkillers, not hard drugs,” said Dr Fazale Roub, Addiction Psychiatrist in Government Psychiatry Hospital, Srinagar.
Doctors say that heroin is now widely being consumed by drug addicts in Kashmir and they prefer injecting the substance instead of snorting or inhaling it.
Dr Fazle Roub said that the scale of drug use has become a major health and social challenge in Kashmir, given the easy availability and demand for drugs.
According to the police, drug abuse is a bigger challenge for Kashmir than militancy. Some cops and security personnel have also been involved in cross-border drug smuggling.
In April this year, three persons, including a CRPF jawan were arrested by Srinagar police for allegedly running a cross-border drug smuggling racket. Police recovered over 11 kilograms of heroin and more than 11 lakh rupees cash from their possession at Rajbagh area of the capital city.
Kupwara district is turning out to be hub of drug trafficking. The police have unearthed multiple drug cartels who operate from border villages.
On December 23, in a major crackdown on drug smuggling, police arrested 17 people including five policemen in Kupwara.
Similarly, in February drug smuglling from Tangdhar sector was busted., Nine persons including five army jawans were arrested for smuggling drugs from Line of Control.
Police say they are trying to make a distinction between drug addicts and drug smugglers. While the addicts are being rehabilitated at Addiction Treatment Facilities (ATFs) and Drug de addiction Centers, they are going tough against drug paddlers and cross border smuggling.