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Drugs mafia targets teenagers, students in Himachal

Kasol in Himachal Pradesh has become a drugs haven

Shimla: Two drug overdose deaths in separate institutions of higher learnings — National Institute of Technology (NIT), Hamirpur and a private university in Mandi in past fortnight and arrest of four students, who were reportedly smuggling drugs to hostel has alarmed Himachal Pradesh police. giv

A first-year M.tech student (name withheld) from Bilaspur district in Himachal Pradesh died under mysterious circumstances in the hotel room last week, apparently due to drug overdose.

The police in Hamirpur found that four suspected peddlers, also students, were supplying drugs to the students in the NIT hostel. This laxity by the management further emboldened the drug mafia to find more consumers in the hostel.

Even as suspects have been arrested by the police and now being subjected to intense questioning, the incident has exposed the drug nexus in the small town, also home district of Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu.

The police have confirmed that among the four arrested there are three NIT students and another doing BEd. Being addicts, they were targeting other students to expand the notorious nexus, which has its roots in Punjab, where the drugs reach via drones from across the Pakistan border.

Hamirpur being an education hub in Himachal Pradesh like Solan district, is a new target of the drug mafia to rope in teenagers and college students, not alone for making them addicts but also peddling.

Early this month, another student had died due to a drug overdose in Mandi town. He was studying at Chandigarh university but later shifted to Mandi to pursue his studies.

His family had pulled him out from Chandigarh so as to help him to quit the drugs but in vain.

Drug overdose deaths have also been reported from Shimla, Solan and Una but the parents try to hide the facts because of social stigma. Situation in Punjab, the neighbouring state, is really grave. Now, it looks like the turn of Himachal Pradesh, fears I D Bhandri, a former DGP.

Himachal Pradesh Director General of  Police Sanjay Kundu admits that the situation in the state was quite alarming and only police can’t wipe out the drugs as society, particularly the parents have to support the agencies and send addict wards to rehabilitation centres.

“The addicts are victims not criminals. Our target is to smash the nexus, break the supply scheme and put the mafia behind the bars to save youths” he declares.

More than two-third of Himachal Pradesh is in the grip of drug menace, particularly “Chitta” (heroine) smuggled to the state from Punjab and Delhi.

The districts having a serious problem include Shimla, Kullu, Sirmaur, Solan, Mandi, Hamirpur ,Una and Kangra.

In Kangra, Superintendent of Police Shalini Agnihotri had claimed a major breakthrough when the police smashed a dangerous nexus of drug peddling and crime. The police arrested a murder accused having links with notorious Lawrence Bishnoi gang.

Two persons arrested including Rohit alias Chhottu, a murder convict ,who had earlier jumped the parole.The police seized weapons and illegally trafficked drug consignment in this case.

Third accused, Rajiv Kaushal, an alleged criminal from Una ,who purportedly has links with the Lawrence Bishnoi group was recently arrested by Punjab Police with 21 country made pistols.

Agnihotri informed that it was on September 6, 2023 the duty police personnel at Police Post Tanda  found an abandoned bag ,which was on search found containing three country made pistols, two sharp edged knives, 40 live rounds of different make and 5,250 tablets of Alprazolam – a scheduled contraband.

A local lead, during investigations, revealed that a suspicious person had stayed in a private hotel at Shahpur,who eventually turned out to be Vinay Bhandari ,a history sheeter .

On his arrest a few days later, he was also found to be carrying two more country made pistols, loaded magazine, two live rounds, cell-phone and wi-fi modem.

“These pistols were similar in design and made to the ones seized at Tanda. Further investigation revealed that Vinay Bhandari was involved in a daylight shooting near Metro mall in Zirakpur, Punjab and was on the run since then. He was injured during the said incident due to gun-shot explosion and was on the run since then and took refuge in Himachal Pradesh” she informed.

Rohit, besides being a murder convict, and one who had also jumped the parole is also facing several cases under the NDPS Act in Kangra and Una district in Himachal Pradesh. He also has links with drug peddlers in Amritsar.

In Kullu, a district infamous for rampant illegal cannabis cultivation on the forest and private land, especially in Manikaran Valley has found a new dimension to the crime with persons from Nepal engaged in the cultivation and trading of the processed cannabis products especially charas.

“We are striving that Manikaran Valley does not fall into the trap of becoming a narco- tourism destination. I ask citizens to share any information relating to drugs and we promise that source of information will not be disclosed at any cost” he says.

Also Read: Drugs, rave parties and Chitta–‘Udta Kullu’ is Himachal tourism’s dark side