NE India: separatists and bad neighbours fuel poppy cultivation
Sources from the security forces reveal that around 28 UGs from tribes like the Nagas and the Kukis, operate in Manipur. Some of these groups had signed a ceasefire with the Indian government in 2005, ending the violence with the Indian security forces. Since then, the Indian security forces have been asked to cease all hostilities with the UGs, thereby, giving them a free hand in all their activities. The ceasefire has not managed to quell the fighting amongst themselves over territories. In order to fund their extremist activities, they resort to kidnappings, inter-factional killing, extortion from locals and NGOs, drug and human trafficking. The UGs use poor farmers to purchase a small plot of land so they can pay the least tax and stay below the administration’s radar.
Unemployment has either pushed the youth out of the troubled state or forced them to join the UGs or the security forces. “The youth join UGs as there is rampant unemployment. They are like criminal gangs,” says Nelson Elangbam, a salesman who has moved from Imphal to Mumbai. “These gangs extort money from people on the national highway. Sometimes, the person being extorted doesn’t even know which gang he is paying.” As a result, in the land where the game of Polo originated, people are tossed between poverty and desperation.”
This looks like a regional issue (also affecting Burma and Bangladesh) although the Indian security forces are perhaps overly keen to point fingers at the “underground groups” as the only sponsors of illicit poppy cultivation…