Police in Indian Kashmir on Tuesday blamed Pakistan for backing what it called “narco-terrorism” in the strife-torn Himalayan region, a day after six people were allegedly caught transporting drugs valued at millions of rupees from across the border.
About 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of heroin, 3.5 kg (7.7 pounds) of hashish, as well as 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) of “brown sugar” – an adulterated form of heroin – were among substances recovered from the six suspects, all residents of a Kupwara district village on the Line of Control (LoC), a de-facto border that divides the region between India and Pakistan, police said.
“Pakistan is actively involved in spreading narco-terrorism. The funds generated from sale of narcotics are being used to fund terror activities in Kashmir,” S.P. Vaid, director general of police in Jammu and Kashmir, told BenarNews, adding that the illegal drugs were smuggled in from Pakistan.
The Indian side of the LoC is called Jammu and Kashmir, where an outbreak of separatist insurgency has claimed more than 70,000 lives since the late 1980s. India calls the other side of the border Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, or PoK.
“The latest arrests and recovery of contraband substances has once again established Pakistan’s role in spreading narco-terrorism in India,” Vaid said without elaborating.
The suspected peddlers – identified as Nisar Ahmad Chokar, Mohammad Khaleeq Sheikh, Rayees Ahmad Sheikh, Mohammad Shabir Mir, Sadiq Ahmad Mir and Abdul Rashid Mir – worked like an organized syndicate to procure drugs sent from across the LoC, another police officer said.
“Chokar, who lived in a village near the LoC, was in regular touch with one Muneer Ahmad, his relative living in Pakistan. [Ahmad] sent consignments to Chokar,” Shamsher Hussain, Kupwara’s superintendent of police, told BenarNews.
Anti-India movement ‘peaceful and indigenous’
Separatists, however, refuted this allegation.
“The ongoing movement against Indian oppressive rule in Kashmir is peaceful and indigenous. By linking illegal narcotics business to separatism in Kashmir, India is only trying to malign the movement at an international level,” Shabir Shah, chairman of the Democratic Freedom Party (DFM), told BenarNews.
DFM is an ally of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of 26 political, social and religious organizations that has been fighting for Kashmir’s independence since 1993.
“Only recently, entire Kashmir was on the streets in protest against rights abuses committed by Indian security forces. [Even then] India wasted no time in blaming Pakistan for orchestrating the unrest. Its aim was to divert attention from the core issue,” Shah said, referring to the recent months-long violence between security forces and anti-India protesters that claimed more than 100 lives following the killing of a separatist leader.
At least one security analyst backed the police claim that separatism in Kashmir was being partly funded by drug money from across the border, giving examples of recent arrests.
In February 2014, Indian police claimed to have busted a narco-terrorism network with the arrest of a member of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Indian Kashmir’s biggest separatist faction, in possession of “brown sugar” valued at more than 1 billion rupees (U.S. $14.6 million). The contraband was recovered from the suspect’s truck that was used to ferry goods for trade across the border, according to the police.
“The world over, one of the keys to fostering terrorism in a neighboring state has been to use funds generated by drug trafficking. Drug peddling in Afghanistan was used to finance the war against the Soviet Union.” retired Maj. Gen. G.D. Bakshi, a New Delhi-based security analyst, told BenarNews.
Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute of Conflict Management, differed.
“It would be early to say if money from narcotics trade is used to advance separatism in Kashmir. Contraband substances in little quantities have been recovered from drug peddlers in Kashmir earlier as well but a connection with separatism has never been established. Let’s wait and see what comes out of [the latest] arrests,” Sahni told BenarNews.