After starting his journalistic career with Kashmir Times in 1998, he went on to work with Indian Express and Hindustan Times. After that, he worked for Daily Excelsior and headed a local English daily, JK News Point, for years together. During his journalistic career, his reportage mostly reflected the social evils consuming our society. Having gone through the grinding, Zorawar Singh Jamwal, in 2014, started an organisation, ‘Team Jammu’, and dedicated it to social causes, especially to fight against the ever increasing drug menace. In an interview with Kashmir Scan correspondent Nabeel Aijaz, Jamwal spoke about his initiative and their findings.
NA: What is ‘Team Jammu’?
ZJ: Team Jammu is a non-profit organisation comprising of intellectuals from different walks of life including journalists, lawyers, doctors, businessmen, educated unemployed youths, engineers, technocrats and social workers working for the cause of commoners.
NA: What made you start Team Jammu?
ZJ: I was always passionate to work for the society and that is what I am living for. But my passion turned into reality a couple of years ago when I, with some of my friends, decided to start an organisation with the name of Team Jammu. Besides various social activities, we remained active during the rescue and rehabilitation process after the devastation that happened due to flash floods in Panjer, Sadder and its adjoining areas in 2014.
NA: Team Jammu is more active in anti-drug addiction activities. What is the reason?
ZJ: During our activities in the rehabilitation process of Sadder and Panjer, we came to know about the untimely deaths of many people in Udhampur district. After that, we got information about the sudden deaths of many youngsters in Samba district also. These incidents shook me and after proper verification from their families, relatives and other villagers, I came to know that all these deaths occurred due to drug addiction. On that day, I firmly decided to fight drug menace and to eradicate it from the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir.
NA: Fight against drug menace means a fight against drug mafia. What made you accept this challenge?
ZJ: Since I am from journalism background, I had inputs that on the pattern of Punjab, drugs mafia uses Jammu based “carriers” to smuggle drugs into our youths and to make them addicts. In 2015, I started doing research on this issue personally as well as with the help of some active journalists. Let me tell you that I was taken by surprise to know that around 150 young girls and boys of Jammu, Samba, Reasi and Rajouri district had died of drugs abuse that year. So I accepted this challenge and started raising voice against the drug mafia vigorously.
NA: What kind of problems have you faced so far while fighting drug mafia?
ZJ: If you are hinting at the fear of death, let me tell you that my parents had taught me that it is only almighty who has the power to decide about your death. So I never feared getting killed by the “powerful” drug mafia. As far as other difficulties are concerned, I would say, “Yes I faced”. Because most of the drugs victim/deceased youths were/are from rich families, their parents tried to hush-up the reasons behind their falling health/deaths. They even didn’t allow police to conduct post-mortem of their children fearing stigma from the society. Had they cooperated and supported us, we might have helped other youth against falling into the death trap by pressurising the police to identify and start acting against the drug mafia.
NA: What is the role of the police in the fight drug menace?
ZJ: Police has a major role to play against the drug menace but that could be effective only with the cooperation of civil society and the local populace. The civil society has to work shoulder to shoulder with police so that the drug menace could be eradicated from this state. There are various NGOs who are funded by the government of India to fight drug menace but their performance is minimal.
NA:: How does your organisation help the victims?
ZJ: Last year, we helped 70 families of addicted children by admitting their wards in drugs de-addiction centres in Punjab since there is no full-fledged 24×7 de-addiction centre in entire Jammu Province. There are few counselling centres but my personal observation is that they are good for nothing. Helping the needy people is a continuous process since then.
NA:: Do you think that your organisation can make a difference in the war against drug mafias?
ZJ: To answer your question, I would like to quote an Urdu couplet:
‘Akele Hi Chale The Janib-e-Manzil Lekin
Log Judte Gaye, Carvan Banta Gaya’.
We started with a group of 8 to 10 friends and in just one year, Team Jammu has a force of 20,000 volunteers to fight drug addiction, which is increasing with each passing day.
NA: Your message to the general public?
ZJ: Please keep a vigil on the activities of your children, his/her friend circle and other people he/she meets every day. Give time to your children out of your busy schedule to know about his/her requirements, problems and discuss everything with your children like a friend. Also, ensure that your child is not depressed or living in alienation due to some personal problems. If he/she is, try to know those problems and find a peaceful solution to them.