, by DR. SYED AHMED
A cycle rally was organised recently in Manipur to create awareness about the harmful effects of drug abuse on the Muslim community. The rally was flagged off from Hatta Masjid, at Imphal, by State’s Labour Commissioner Abdur Rehman Khan on April 11, 2008. Maulana Mufti Siraj Ahmad, head of Darul-Uloom Markaj Lilong, the largest Madrasa in Manipur, attended the flag-off function as the Guest of Honour. Elders and religious leaders (Imams and Maulanas) of the Muslim community and other anti-drug activists also attended the function. The rally, organised by All Manipur Anti-Drug Association (AMADA), winded up on April 25. AMADA, one of the most active anti-drug organisations in the state, has its branches spread out in almost all the localities and villages of the valley of Manipur. The volunteers of the organisation organise frequent raids against drug-addicts and drug-peddlers. The offenders are punished while the confiscated drugs are destroyed. Many of the members of this organisation are drawn from the Muslim community.
The cycle rally, participated by 16 volunteers of AMADA, was led by two Moulvis. The rally travelled to almost all the Muslim inhabited areas of Manipur. Keibung, Thoubal Moijing, Sora, Keirak, Fabakchou, Mayang Imphal, Heibong Makhong, Wangoi, Oinam, Kwakta, Keirang, Khetrigao, Keirao, Lilong are some of the Muslim villages that the rally passed through. The volunteers held meetings at Masjids, Madrasas and clubs in the Muslim localities with local residents, which included Imams and Maulanas, and took a firm stand to curb drug-abuse.
The Muslims in Manipur, locally known as Meitei-Pangal, with an estimated population of 2.5 lakh have been adversely affected by drug abuse. According to Muhammad Mahaboob Ali, who volunteered in the rally, said that today more than 40% of the Muslim youths in the state have been affected by drug abuse, while many indulge in drug-peddling. The common drugs used by the youths today are the pharmaceutical addictive products/prescriptive drugs, like sedatives (Nitrosume, Nitrate, valium, etc.), pain killers (Spasmo Proxyvon, Alprajolam, Lobain, etc.), cough syrups (Corex, Kodex, Phensydyl, Lingtus, Glycodin, etc.) and adhesive products like Dendrite (as inhaler). Earlier intravenous drug Heroin, commonly known as Number 4, was the most popular drug used by the youths in the state. Many youths, including those from the Muslim community, addicted to this drug have fallen prey to the incurable disease, AIDS, due to sharing of needles. Many have given their lives, while the sexual partners and children of these drug-users have been infected with HIV. As per the reports compiled by the Manipur Aids Control Society till 2007 Manipur is one of the six HIV/AIDS high prevalent states in the country with 27,961 HIV positive people, including 7,106 women. Over the years police and anti-drug volunteers have caught several Muslim men and women peddling drugs. The situation has become a cause of worry for the religious leaders and elders of the community.
The overall socio-economic and educational standard of the Muslims in the state plays an important role in making the Muslim youths vulnerable to using and selling drugs. The acute economic backwardness and dismal educational standard of the Muslims and the ever increasing trend of unemployment in the state have, in general, disheartened the Muslim youths and detracted them from education, as jobs became scarce and the competition for jobs intensified. As a result, many out of frustration become easy victim of drugs, while many took to drug-peddling to make easy money.
Today use of drugs by youth has reached an “epidemic proportion” in Manipur. Some of the best efforts at combating drug abuse have come from local youth (through clubs), women’s body (Meira Paibis/ Nisha Bandis), NGOs, religious bodies, and other civil society organisations. As per a report, there are more than 40 organisations working on drug and related issues, including HIV/AIDS, in the state.
Over the years the Muslim community has also been showing great concern over the ever increasing number of their youths taking drugs. Many clubs, civil society organisations and religious bodies from the community are now engaged in combating the problem of drug abuse. Like the other communities, anti-drug bodies are organised in almost all the Muslim inhabited areas. An organisation of Maulanas called Islamic Cultural and Research Organisation, based at Lilong (largest Muslim inhabited area) has been involved in combating the menace of drug abuse for quite sometime. For years the Tablighi Jamatis have also shown their concern on the issue of drug abuse by the Muslim youths. They have rehabilitated the youths through intense preaching. Interestingly, many of these youths are reformed and ended up being devout Jamatis.
Last year, in April, a 3-day workshop on HIV/AIDS for Muslim religious leaders (Imams/Maulanas) was organised by an NGO in collaboration with Manipur Aids Control Society. The main purpose of the workshop was to educate the religious leaders about the dreaded disease AIDS, the preventive measures, and the adverse impacts of drug-abuse on Muslim community, so that they can bring awareness to the Muslim masses through preaching.