South Asia: Indian Farmers, Maoists Team Up in Opium Trade 1/27/06

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Drought, drug prohibition, and simmering lawlessness in the northeastern Indian state of Jharkhand are combining in an all too familiar pattern as hard-pressed farmers team up with guerrilla fighters in what looks to be a burgeoning opium trade. According to reports from the Indo-Asian News Service, local officials in Jharkand are complaining that farmers are growing opium and selling it to Maoist guerrillas who smuggle it across the northern border into Nepal and Bhutan. The farmers make enough to put food on the table, and the guerrillas make enough to help finance their long-running insurgency.

trader's opium, outside Jalalabad, Afghanistan,
photo by Drug War Chronicle editor Phil Smith
"There are reports that the opium is grown by the farmers with the help of Maoist guerrillas. The farmer grows the opium inside wheat fields so that the police cannot trace it," Chatra district Police Superintendent Shashinath Jha told IANS. Police have identified opium growing in at least two of the state's 16 districts, but think there is much more being cultivated, said Jha. "These areas are only the tip of the iceberg. There are possibilities that opium is grown at large scale in other parts of the state. And the real beneficiary is the Maoist guerrillas who profit from the drug peddlers," he said. "Opium cultivation is changing the life of farmers here as they are get hefty returns and it is helps Maoists to generate revenue for seditious activities," he said.

The Maoists are the Communist Party of India-Maoist and their Peoples Liberation Guerrilla Army, who seek a classic Mao-style protracted guerrilla war resulting in a communist revolution. They operate in at least 13 Indian states, have contacts with Maoist guerrillas in Nepal, and are seeking to create a "Compact Revolutionary Zone" running from Bihar and Jharkhand states in the northeast through the Dandakaranya forests of Central Indian and down to Andhra Pradesh in the south.

"The Nepal border of Bihar is transit point for the drug peddlers," said Jha. "The Maoists provide a safe passage to drug peddlers. The opium grown in Jharkhand is supplied to Bihar and then reaches Nepal to other destinations," he added.

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Issue #420 -- 1/27/06

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