Army camps aiding alcohol abuse, say Budgam locals

Javid Ali
MAGAM: Acute militarisation in Kashmir has had deep psychological effects on the population and, with that, some drastic and worrying social changes. In central Kashmir’s Budgam, for example, locals claim that the numerous camps of various Indian security agencies – like in other parts of Kashmir – have contributed to a rise in alcohol abuse among the youth. This, they say, comes on top of the problem of drug abuse already prevalent in the area.
Locals across the district say even school-going teenagers are indulging in alcohol consumption, and instead of taking action to stop the menace the authorities are ‘assisting’ the peddlers. They claim that alcohol peddlers usually arrive at night in their vehicles and sell ‘army liquor’ at cheap rates to youths. “Apart from their normal counterinsurgency role, many army camps help locals in getting easy access to alcohol, which otherwise is not easy in Kashmir’s socio-cultural setting,” they said.
There are also other “sub-suppliers”, locals claim, who sell army-supplied alcohol to youths, especially students. “There is a shopkeeper in Dangerpora, Peth Makhama who supplies alcohol to the youth in this area,” said Yusuf Dar (name changed), a local.
Residents of Hanji Bugh, Nasrullah Pora, Khag, Beerwah, Wahabpur, Budgam, Wadwan, Matipopra, Mazhama, Aaripanthan, Peth Makhama, Sanoor Kali Pora, Magam, Chewdara, Sebdan claim the younger generation is being badly hit by this illegitimate activity and alcohol consumption is increasing by the day. “There are many locals involved who get alcohol from nearby army camps and distribute it among addicted youth, especially teenagers,” many say.
Sources say a few locals from a village called Karhama get alcohol from the nearby Kunzer army camp and distribute it among teenagers of the area. From Karhama it also goes to Harda-Aboora, where suppliers exchange alcohol for marijuana. The alcohol is also supplied to other villages like Goigam, Badran, Peth Makhama, Magam, Beerwah, Aaripanthan and Khag etc. Women also apparently help in this ‘trade’ by ferrying alcohol.
Locals aver that instances of youngsters consuming alcohol at isolated places and then behaving badly are increasing.
Apart from the Kunzer camp, there are other army camps in the district like at Aaripanthan, Beerwah and Daharmuna which, sources say, also are part of this liquor ‘trade’. Many locals, speaking to Kashmir Reader, said there was a direct link between this addiction to alcohol and drugs and the presence of Indian armed forces. However, they also said factors like a sense of hopelessness, insecurity, late marriages, broken relationships, family conflicts and unemployment were also responsible for the alcohol and drug abuse.
Reacting to these allegations, defence spokesman RN Joshi said any talk of the Indian army promoting alcoholism was “purely baseless and unjustifiable”.
“The army gets a limited supply of alcohol for its use which cannot be shared with the public at any cost. These allegations are groundless and I strongly deny these,” he said. He added that there is no ‘extra supply’ of alcohol that can be distributed to the public and the required supply of alcohol to Indian forces in the state was barely being maintained, and hence there was “no possibility” of any public distribution.
However, the army canteen department sells general, household items to the public, unlike liquor, he said.