By M. Basheer
Every year thousands of kanals of land in Kashmir valley , especially South Kashmir, are used to grow bhang. South Kashmir has been a history sheeter in case of bhang cultivation. The only period during which this region barred from its cultivation was the period when militancy was at its peak upto 2000. As the number of militants dwindled, people again started its cultivation as a cash crop. Despite knowing the fact that the cultivation of bhang is prohibited , the offenders have become fearless which may be due to the callous approach of agencies which are meant to curb this practice. They know that these warnings against the cultivation by adminstartion are of no worth. Not only agricultural land but also horticultural land is being used by villagers. And, each time we keep on hearing from both police and civil adminstartion that a major drive would be launched to eradicate this menace from the society and offenders will be booked. No doubt eradication drives are carried out and some photographs also appear in media but these drives are only eyewash. The mass cultivation of this plant can be seen in the villages of almost all tehsils of south Kashmir but the areas which are notorious for its cultivation include the villages of Bijbehara and Shopian. The massive cultivation drive by the farmers is evident as lush green patches of bhang would be seen on large areas of agriculture and horticulture land in several villages of Anantnag and Shopian districts. Everyone knows that this bhang cultivation will have a disastrous effect on the society in general and on youth in particular. Yet the cultivation is at its boom from the past several years. The reasons for this is obviously the nexus between the offenders and law enforcement agencies. Bhang mafias are very much powerful because they enjoy political patronage in most of the cases. If, in case, the police acts honestly against these mafia, the politicians pressurize the police to get them released. In some cases for deterrence some offenders were even detained under public safety act. But despite this the graph of cultivation has gone up. During the past few years due to unrest, the cultivation of bhang is rampant especially in Dachnipora villages and Shopian region. In my opinion one of the main reasons for this is the minimum attention given by Police and Excise departments towards this. In actuality police forced are meant for maintaining law and order, but in case of Kashmir valley police force has been assigned other works like counter insurgency etc.
Government should come up with a policy by enacting a legislation or making the older legislations implementable to eradicate this menace from Kashmir valley especially south Kashmir. Also civil society and religious leaders need to play their role in stopping people from this lucrative cultivation.
—(The author is a doctoral student of Zoology at Central University Chhattisgarh and can be reached at: email@example.com)