Poppy Fields Destroyed in Kashmir
7 June 2007
Srinagar: Police and security forces in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have destroyed hundreds of acres of poppy fields and arrested 125 people in a drive in the Himalayan region, police said Thursday. Authorities believe the suspects were planning to use the poppy crop for heroin and opium, said senior police official Hemant Lohia. The crops were grown on nearly 500 acres of fields in the Anantnag and Pulwama districts in southern Kashmir. India is one of the world's largest producers of legal opium for medicinal purposes and poppies are grown legally throughout the country, including in Kashmir. The crops destroyed by authorities were believed to be illegal, Lohia said. Southern Kashmir, an area where illegal poppy fields are common, has seen a high number of Islamic rebels ever since an armed insurgency began in 1989. However, police said there has not been direct evidence tying militants to the poppy cultivators. The rebels have been fighting to see Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim area, declared independent from Hindu-majority India, which controls two-thirds of the land, or to see it merged with Muslim Pakistan, which controls one-third. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the start of the rebellion.