The northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh is famous for its natural beauty as well as its strategic and sensitive location—bordering China, Myanmar and Bhutan. However, it is also grappling with a problem that is not so well known to the world beyond.
For the last few decades, Arunachal Pradesh has been battling a burgeoning drug problem, with large numbers of youth falling prey to the vice-like grip of opium, heroin and brown sugar.
WASE is about how a group of women have found courage from their grief to make a difference. Jaya Tasung Moyong, general secretary of WASE
Arunachal Pradesh is located near the (in)famous Golden Triangle, an area of around 950,000 square kilometers that includes the mountains of three countries of Southeast Asia—Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. This region is known for the production and trafficking of drugs like opium and heroin. The availability, accessibility and affordability of drugs are easy due to trafficking, which has escalated the drug abuse problem in the state. A whole new generation of the region is in danger and the official steps to tackle the problem remain weak and ineffective. Such a grim situation calls for a pragmatic solution keeping in view the local context.
Fortunately, taking matters into their own hands are a group of women from Pasighat (the oldest town of Arunachal Pradesh, located on the mighty river Siang) in East Siang district. They have all lost loved ones to drug abuse or alcoholism and their mission is to combat these evils. Together, in 2016, they formed an alliance known as Women Against Social Evils (WASE) in order to ensure that other parents do not have to endure the losses they did with their children.
WASE started rescuing children from the grip of drugs based on the information they received from contacts—often parents and relatives of drug addicts. Their membership network continues to widen and even the local police is helping them in their tasks. Their achievements already are many. They successfully protested against the establishment of a liquor factory at Niglok Industrial Growth Center in East Siang and have run well-received awareness campaigns about the perils of addiction. They have even caught drug peddlers red-handed and have alerted the police to such criminal activities. Many drug peddlers from Ayang, Ngopok, Oyan villages and Pasighat town were caught and FIRs filed against them. In addition, WASE members try to counsel the victims and their relatives too.
WASE has become a household name in the Siang region due to their vigilantism and the positive impact they have made on society.
WASE has become a household name in the Siang region due to their vigilantism and the positive impact they have made on society. They have won the hearts of the people and put some fear in those who are involved in the drug business. Moreover the level of alcohol consumption in Pasighat has reduced as shops are closed by 7pm sharp under the ever watchful gaze of WASE. What's more these women are extending their activism to other areas, such as protecting the environment from afforestation and cleaning local streams of garbage. They recently wrote to the Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh to improve education and employment opportunities so that children do not fall into the trap of drug abuse.
These determined women are truly an inspiration—what they lack in education they make up for in tenacity and determination. They have fought many hurdles—in the name of caste, tribe, religion—but they have never wavered from their goal.
Jaya Tasung Moyong, general secretary of WASE, sums it up lucidly, "WASE is about how a group of women have found courage from their grief to make a difference because of the unfortunate events in their lives. WASE is fighting for a change and a cause which is very close to their hearts. Their children could never grow up in the kind of society they wanted but they desperately hope that their grandchildren will be nurtured in a better environment tomorrow."