IN THE first major search operation in Punjab after the Congress government took over, more than 300 policemen led by three Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSPs) raided the ‘drug’ village of Daulewala of Dharamkot in Moga Sunday.
However, the operation, which the police claimed was planned as a ‘crackdown’ on high-profile drug smugglers operating from the village, turned out to be a damp squib as the police failed to recover any drugs or book even a single drug peddler.
Instead, the police arrested three persons, including two women, for smuggling illicit liquor. As per claims of police, they recovered 30-kg lahaan (raw material for homemade liquor) from two women – Niranjan Kaur and Gurbachan Kaur.
Another suspect, Rasaal Singh, was arrested. The police claimed to have recovered 40 bottles of country-made liquor from him.
The police also claimed that almost every home in the village was searched.
Mandeep Singh, DSP (investigation), Moga, told The Indian Express that they could not recover drugs from any household.
“The motive of the search operation was to send a strong message to the residents of Daulewala that drug smuggling will not be tolerated at any cost. Although we were not able to make any major recovery, we searched each household which instilled fear in the minds of the villagers. We have seized 30 kg of lahaan and 40 bottles of liquor,” said the DSP (investigation).
The raid was led by three DSPs — DSP (investigation) Mandeep Singh, DSP (Control Room) Sukhjeet Singh and DSP (Moga City) Ajay Raj Singh.
The police also impounded at least 41 motorcycles and a Scorpio, which they suspect were stolen.
“We will be verifying the documents of the impounded vehicles as it is suspected that they were stolen by some villagers and used for smuggling drugs. Those having proper documents will be returned,” said Gurvinder Bhullar, SHO, Fatehgarh Panjtoor police station.
However, some residents of Daulewala claimed that the police did not search the houses of “influential smugglers” and took away the motorcycles of innocent youths instead.
“Not every house was inspected. The big smugglers have been left out once again. The same used to happen during the SAD-BJP rule,” said a village youth whose motorcycle was impounded by the police.
The police have registered three FIRs, including two for liquor smuggling (three arrested) and one for drug peddling. Based on secret inputs, eight persons have been booked for smuggling drugs but police failed to arrest anyone of them during the raid Sunday.
During the recent Punjab Assembly polls, the SAD polled the highest 712 votes, the Congress 557 and the AAP 215 in this village. However, SAD candidate Tota Singh lost the polls to Congress’s Sukhjit Lohgarh from Dharamkot.
In 2014, the police had installed a board at the village entrance that read ‘Infamous for Drugs’ (eh pind nasheyaan layi badnaam hai).
The villagers protested, saying it defamed the village and the board was removed, but the tag remains. Police registered 45 FIRs on charges of drug peddling in this village in 2014, 34 in 2015 and 10 in 2016. In police stations outside the area, 68 people from Daulewala were booked in 2014, 27 in 2015 and 9 in 2016.
The incumbent sarpanch from SAD – Nirmal Singh – is lodged in Faridkot jail and booked in five NDPS cases for smuggling poppy husk.
The Indian Express, on its multiple visits to the village, saw used syringes lying in front of homes, shops, in garbage heaps and on the streets.
In April last year, Punjab DGP Suresh Arora had visited the village to ‘motivate’ youths to shun drugs. He had also promised that youths of Daulewala would be given preference in recruitment of constables but applicants from the village claimed they were never given any priority during the trials.