Journey of a party drug
Colonel Ajay Choudhury, 47, was a fixture on Imphal's social scene. He would be at birthday parties, social gatherings, rock shows and cricket matches for celebrities, rubbing shoulders with MLAs, former political leaders and Manipuri film stars.
The colonel, the defence public relations officer stationed in Imphal, was picked up with five others recently by a team of Manipuri commandos for allegedly ferrying psychotropic drugs worth Rs 25 crore on the international market to Moreh on the Myanmar border, with police claiming to have uncovered a network of drug traffickers. It was the first time an Army officer had been arrested in a drug seizure.
Two days later, Saokholet Haokip, 33, son of former tourism and power minister T N Haokip, was picked up from his home. He was allegedly one of the main transporters; the police claimed to have seized psychotropic drugs worth Rs 2 to 3 lakh from the house. One of the three cars allegedly transporting drugs on February 24 to the Myanmar border belonged to him.
Drug trafficking has not been the number one priority for police, DGP Y Joykumar Singh said. "Our main priority has been curtailing militancy. However, over the past few years, the drug menace has grown," Singh said. "Drug money is being used very often to finance militancy, which has been flagging. We cannot altogether rule out a politician-Army-Assam Rifles-underground group nexus."
At the time of the arrests, police said they had acted on a tip-off and had not expected an Army colonel to be involved. Now, senior officials concede, the colonel and his team had been under watch for some time. "It's just that we weren't able to catch him and his team red-handed with drugs," said a senior police officer. The officer cited four earlier instances when the police had received information about transportation of drugs by the colonel.
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