In a major embarrassment in its proclaimed “war against drugs”, the Manipur government was forced to launch an extensive damage control exercise after it had awarded a police gallantry award to an inspector arrested for trafficking contrabands.
The state’s BJP-led government conferred the Chief Minister’s Police Medal for Gallantry to 13 police personnel on August 15, the Independence Day.
Among the recipients was sub-inspector Bheishamayum Debon Singh, who was arrested for trafficking drugs in 2013. The matter came to the light only after an influential students’ organisation opposed this on August 16.
The All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) took serious exception to the government’s decision and demanded an inquiry into the incident. The students’ body also took a dig at the government’s offensive against drug traffickers saying it hoped that the “war against drugs” did not turn into “war for drugs.”
Faced with criticism, the government has now taken back the award from the inspector and placed him under suspension for “concealing the drugs case pending against him,” said Rehanuddin Choudhury, joint secretary of the state’s home department.
After a preliminary inquiry, the home department has also put under suspension another inspector E Roshan Singh, a reader in the office of the superintendent of police in Imphal East district for “lapses in the initial processing,” the joint secretary said in a communiqué.
To further probe into the lapses that led to the “goof up”, Director General of Police (DGP) LM Khaute constituted a three-member inquiry committee, headed by Inspector General of Police (Int) K Radhashyam Singh.
The committee has also been asked to do a “fresh verification of antecedents/ past records” of all the recipients of the chief minister’s medal this year and to submit its report within a week.
The conferring of gallantry award to a tainted police officer who was caught along with 11 other members of the Manipur Police Commando while smuggling drugs worth more than ₹3 crore, came as a major embarrassment for the government already battling charges of being soft towards drug curtails.
Last month, an additional SP of the Narcotics and Border Affairs wing of Manipur Police Th. Brinda, in an affidavit submitted to the High Court of Manipur, alleged that Chief Minister N Biren Singh had put pressure on her through an aide to release a prime accused in a drug smuggling case Lukhosei Zou.
She also pointed fingers at some top police officers who had also allegedly tried to strike a deal with her to secure the release of the accused.
Zou, a BJP leader, was serving as the chairman of the Autonomous District Council of Chandel district when he was arrested by Brinda in 2018. Heroin powder worth ₹27 crore, 28 kg of amphetamine tablets and a large amount of cash were seized from him.
The decorated police officer in her affidavit also claimed that after the arrest a state BJP functionary visited her and said that the chief minister was extremely angry with her for not releasing Zou who was close to the chief minister’s wife.
Following Brinda’s allegation, the opposition Congress demanded that the drug seizure case be handed over to the CBI and also called for a probe into the allegations levelled by the police officer.