Dr. G. Shreekumar Menon
According to Hindu Scriptures Rishi Kashyapa reclaimed the land now comprising Kashmir from a vast lake. That land came to be known as Kashyapamar and the present name Kashmir. The presiding deity of Kashmir is Goddess Sharada Devi.
नमस्ते शारदे देवि काश्मीरपुरवासिनि ।
त्वामहं प्रार्थये नित्यं विद्यादानं च देहि मे ॥
Namaste Sharada Devi, Kashmira pura vasini
Tvamahe prarthye nityam Vidya daanincha dehime.
The entire Kashmir region was called Sharada Desha. According to the Nilamata Purana, Kashmir has a recorded history of over 5100 years. Kashmir was a great seat of learning especially Sanskrit language. Chinese travelers Xuanzang and Aukang, who visited Bharat, between 631 CE and 751 CE, have mentioned in their memoirs, that no learned person was considered academically mature till he had participated in debates and discourse with scholars of Kashmir. Xuanzang further mentions, “People of Kashmir are culturally acclaimed as lovers of Education. For centuries, Education and Knowledge have been a matter of reverence and honor.”
Iranian scholar Alberuni, who came to Bharat along with Mahmud of Ghazni in 1102, and visited the Punjab region, mentions that “Kashmir has been the most significant Education center of Hindu scholars. Knowledge seekers from far and wide, visit Kashmir to learn Sanskrit and many of them get attracted to the panoramic beauty and scenic landscape surrounding and settle here.”
Kashmir had been a centre of Vedic culture for centuries. The Kamboja Kshatriyas of Gandhara seemed to have ruled Kashmir for a long time in the Vedic past. Kashmir blossomed into a great center of learning for Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Tantra philosophy. Mahayana Buddhism also thrived in Kashmir.
All this changed dramatically with the advent of hardcore Islamic invaders. By the 14th century, Shamsuddin Shah Mir established the Muslim Sultanate in Kashmir. The establishment of the Mughal rule in Kashmir marked the beginning of the subjugation of Kashmiris, and this subjugation became all the more severe in the Afghan rule in the second half of the 18th century. It is the same story of brutal repression, destruction of Hindu Temples, Buddhist Temples, and their centers of learning, wanton killings, rapes and conversions. The reign of Raja Simha Deva and Rinchan Shah, is the story of two weak-minded kings who paved the way for brutal Islamization of Kashmir. The Buddhist Rinchan Shah converted to Islam. Rinchan, whose full name was Lhachan Gualbu Rinchana, was a Buddhist prince from Ladakh, and the son of the Ladakh chief, Lhachan Ngos-gruba, who ruled Ladakh from 1290 to 1320. Rinchan converted to Islam and adopted the title of Sultan Sadruddin Shah, thus becoming the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir.
The once great center of learning that was Kashmir is today a hub of narcotic drugs. According to a survey conducted by the J&K administration in 2019, some 600,000 people—over 4.5 per cent of the total population of the Union territory (as per Census 2011)—are into some form or other of drug addiction. United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) reported that around 70000 people are drug addicts in the Kashmir valley alone among which 4000 are females. 90 per cent of these drug users are in the age group of 17-33 years. 90 percent of the patients enrolling in drug de-addiction centers are using heroin. From 2017 to 2022, the estimate is that there is a 2000% spike in the consumption of drugs.
The cross-border terror connect is to be blamed for the galloping drug addiction in the Valley. Pakistan has been pumping drugs especially Heroin in large quantities into Kashmir.
Enforcement agencies identify the sensitive narco-trafficking routes as Tangdhar, Kupwara, Poonch, Rajouri, Baramulla, and Uri in Kashmir and Samba and Kathua near Jammu. Other sensitive areas affected by the drug menace are Karnah in North Kashmir, and Anantnag in South Kashmir.
The induction of drones by Pakistan for drug-trafficking has added a new dimension to drug trade. Reliance on unmanned flying machines to drop deadly cargo of narcotics, arms and ammunition, ensures total anonymity for the senders of the illicit cargo, quicker and cheaper means of delivery. This also ensures total elimination of dependence on drug carriers for transporting and delivery.
In July 2022, the J&K Police has disclosed that no less than 20 drone sorties in the area along International Border in Kathua and Samba and Rajouri districts have been detected. 15 of these drone sorties carried consignments of weapons that were dropped in Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts, and the rest in Rajouri. The dropped consignments included AK rifles, pistols, remote control, IEDS, stick bombs, silencer pistols and cash in Indian currency. Each drone dropping is estimated to have carried currency worth Rs. 80, 000 and in total, a sum of Rs. 2.5 million has been dropped through these drones out of which about half a million rupees have been recovered by the Police.
The use of drones by Pakistan to drop arms and ammunition on J&K is part of its latest strategy to carry out drone swarm attacks—which gives deniability and carries an element of surprise. It also marks a tactical shift from the decades-old strategy of infiltrating terrorists into Kashmir.
ISI has also been working on a changed strategy for Kashmir after India abrogated Article 370/35-A and reorganized J&K into two Union Territories. In the changed strategy, new terrorist outfits under different nomenclatures like Resistance Front, Peoples’ Anti-Fascist Front, Joint Kashmir Front and the Jammu, Kashmir Ghaznavi Front and Ghazavatul Ansar have been deployed in addition to the existing outfits. However, funding such multiple agencies constantly is a big challenge for Pakistan, which is hovering on the brink of an economic crisis. Narcotics trafficking is a cost effective method of funding terror movements in Kashmir, as also elsewhere in the world.
Another aspect of this surge in narcotics addiction among Kashmiri youth is the heavy requirement by terror groups for hundreds of mindless youngsters to participate in sudden rallies, stone pelting and reckless violence. Minor issues, prayer meetings, funerals, national events, all are manipulated to become triggers for inciting violence against Army personnel and Police forces.
While enforcement agencies are busy on the borders, trying to interdict the illicit drug consignments being thrust into Kashmir by Pakistan, the alarming figure of 600,000 addicts in the Valley implies that substantial quantities are entering without being successfully intercepted.
There are three central universities and nine state universities in Jammu and Kashmir. There are about 47 Government and 3 Private Grant-in-Aid degree colleges. According to the National Assessment Survey (NAS), conducted by the Ministry of Education, in the year 2021 and results published in May 2022, there are a total number of 79256 students and 16260 teachers in 3650 schools in all the 20 districts of J&K. in July 2021 and January 2022 admission sessions, IGNOU enrolled over 53,577 students across Kashmir valley. This huge student population is an irresistible attraction for drug traffickers and peddlers. According to a report released during the first meeting of the state-level committee of the Narco Coordination Centre, in November 2021, the State had 600,000 drug addicts, 90% falling in the age bracket of 17-33. Sufficient Drug Rehabilitation Centers are not available to cater to the needs of the swelling ranks of drug addicts.
In the year 2020, the seizure figures of narcotics stood at 26,000 kilograms and more than 4.58 lakh intoxicants of different types were sized by various wings of Jammu and Kashmir Police.
Radicalisation and drug-addiction are twin afflictions, endangering the youth of Kashmir. Unless the government takes concrete and harsh steps to eradicate the problem, future is very bleak for the drug affected youth. Presence of 600,000 young addicts is not a comfortable scenario for any government to tackle. Even neighbouring Bangladesh had to initiate stringent measures to control Yaba drug addiction in that country. Iran also took stern measures against drug traffickers. All these nations had to confront national and international pressures in their efforts to save their population from severe drug addiction problems.
Many Western nations have a soft attitude to drug trafficking and terror movements in Asia and Africa. They have nurtured an army of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), journalists, media houses, film personalities, who go into an overdrive, whenever any government, anywhere starts initiating tough measures against drug traffickers. But every government has a bounden duty to protect its youth, their lives, and health. These are more important than the rights of drug traffickers.
The author Dr G Shreekumar Menon, IRS (Rtd) Ph. D (Narcotics), is
- Former Director General National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics, and Multi-Disciplinary School of Economic Intelligence India
- Fellow, James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, USA.
- Fellow, Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA
- Public Administration, Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University, U.S.A.
- AOTS Scholar, Japan
Dr G Shreekumar Menon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org