A new movie by Dhojo Wahengbam on the severe rights violations committed against people who use drugs in Manipur.
The situation of drug use in Manipur is very bad from every angle. Drugs are easily available in most parts of Manipur, young people are increasingly using them. The majority of people who use drugs have no idea of harm reduction, overdose prevention or safer injection. Many people die due to preventable overdose, and they share injecting equipment, such as cookers, water containers, or water to dilute heroin, which is very harmful and has a high risk of transmitting HIV, Hepatitis-C and other blood-borne viruses (BBVs). According to some independent estimates, there are more than 75,000 people who use drugs in Manipur, and of that number, 38,000 people injecting. There are various kinds of drugs available in Manipur, but heroin is very common, and the majority of people use heroin.
There are various forms of rights violation faced by the people who use drugs in Manipur. They are very often stigmatised, and are considered to be trouble-makers in society. There is a false perception among the general public, that all people who use drugs are HIV-positive and virus carriers. There is a feeling of hatred that it is the IDUs who are bringing HIV into Manipur and spreading the viruses. Chaining people who use drugs to their bed, or shackling them like animals, as remedies for forcing them into ‘normality’, were very common in the drug de-addiction centres in Manipur. Beatings, head-shaving, publishing names and photographs in newspapers, demolishing houses etc. are some of the major rights violations committed against people who use drugs by the public, and by anti-drug organisations in Manipur.
Injecting drug use has been the leading route of HIV and Hepatitis-C transmission in Manipur. This transmission can be prevented, but harsh laws targeting drug users, and mistaken approaches by civil society organisations in Manipur, are impeding access to lifesaving services such as needle exchange and OST, and driving users away from help and accessing treatment. The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 needs to be altered or replaced. The NDPS Act has given the power of enforcement to various central and state law-enforcement agencies, and violates the rights of people who use drugs. National drug policy is also generally focussed on abstinence-based treatment programs, instead of promoting harm reduction. Policy-makers and our government need to introduce better drug policy to improve the health and human rights of people who use drugs in Manipur.
Some of the challenges I came across in making this film, involved the financial challenge of travelling around to meet people, but I somehow managed to produce this film. If there is a zeal and enthusiasm in us to fight for our rights and help our community, then we can manage it somehow, whatever the challenge.