On 16 March this year, police in Assam arrested Elahi Sheikh in Dibrugarh. Considered one of the biggest drug barons in the Northeast, Sheikh had been in hiding since jumping bail several years ago. The police also found heroin at his residence which was speculated to be sent to Arunachal Pradesh. Sheikh had amassed a huge fortune over the years by selling drugs through a network that consisted primarily of women and children.
Sheikh’s case is indicative of the colossal quantity of narcotics that flows through Assam in both directions—to the mainland and across the border to Myanmar and Bangladesh. Following the druglord’s arrest, police swung into action and arrested over 50 small dealers in the state over the next couple of months, especially from Guwahati and Dibrugarh. The seizures made from their residences, hideouts and subsequent interrogation by police revealed that a wide range of drugs—from cocaine to cannabis—find their way to Assam.
Mukush Sahay, the director general of police for the state told me that “Assam has emerged as a transit point for drugs going to different and distant places. We have identified the kingpins and we are in touch with our counterparts in some other states.” The situation prompted the state government to constitute a task force on May 11 under the additional chief secretary of the home department TY Das to assess the extent of the problem and the rehabilitation of addicts. The Narcotics Control Bureau, an agency under the ministry of home affairs which has also been involved in operations, has conducted raids at Gaya in Bihar and Rae Bareily in Uttar Pradesh following leads from arrested peddlers on the drug trail.