Funky haircuts or shoes, lean body: Hyderabad police’s profile of a ‘junkie’

The police say they are conducting the checks to identify addicts coming to Dhoolpet, known to be a hub for ganja sale, so they can find the source of distribution and end the drug menace.
Police frisking youngsters travelling on a two-wheeler
Police frisking youngsters travelling on a two-wheeler

This story is a part of our series on policing and excesses in Hyderabad. Read all stories in the series here.

The Hyderabad police came under severe scrutiny last month after Excise Department officials along with the Mangalhat police carried out a search operation, frisking motorists randomly in Dhoolpet, and further invading their privacy by checking their phone chats for clues about ganja consumption and smuggling.

Shortly, legal notices were sent to Hyderabad Commissioner Anjani Kumar questioning the legal validity of such extreme measures. Following this, the police have abandoned searching for messages on phones, but the drive to curb the drug menace is continuing intensively.

In the Old City area of Dhoolpet, which has earned the notoriety of being a hub for ganja sale, vigilance has been increased. The Mangalhat police are conducting round-the-clock checks at the entry and exit points of Dhoolpet, where they are nabbing motorists who look ‘suspicious’ and checking their vehicles for drugs.

According to a police officer involved in the drive, it has been a major success. The officer said that as part of the drive, which has been ongoing since October, they look for drug addicts who come to Dhoolpet to buy ganja. “If we can identify the addicts, we can find out the source of distribution and end the menace,” the officer told TNM.

So how do the police identify addicts? They say they stop anyone who looks out of place in the locality. They look for funky hairstyles, bikes or shoes, anyone who is thin and looking lost. “Searches based on these factors have been highly effective. We have a success rate of 80-90%,” the officer shared.

“It’s over a period of time that we acquire this instinct,” said a top official from the Excise Department who is engaged in the drive against drugs. He added, “We cannot frisk everybody. Then it becomes a mockery.”

The officer said that they study people’s behaviour which helps them in identifying drug addicts. “We’re usually able to identify a suspect – the way he looks, where he is looking at, the way he is dressed, the lane he is taking, where he is stopping, etc.”

Addicts are also profiled based on tattoos, funky shirts or hats. “Not many youngsters come to Dhoolpet. So, we monitor those who come here. Only in some exceptional cases do the addicts look “decent”. Our observation is not mere fluke, it is based on physical appearance and behavioural science.”

According to the officer, vehicle registration is also a give-away. “If a vehicle is not registered in Telangana, then the person comes under surveillance.”

Had this reporter been on the road, I would certainly have fit the “profile” and been stopped for checks. The police officer I spoke to said nonchalantly, “Drug addicts look like you.”

To describe me: I’m dark, have long curly hair, was wearing a granddad shirt that day that made me look extremely thin, and did not look like I belonged in Dhoolpet.

Abdul Mukarram, the Siasat Daily journalist who originally reported about the police invading privacy by going through people’s phones, recalled, “That particular day they were checking almost everyone who was going on a two-wheeler.”

While round-the-clock checks have become the norm under the Mangalhat police jurisdiction, police checks at night time under all police stations in Old City have become a daily routine following a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. In the meeting held on October 20, the CM gave a call for war against drugs. “The usage of ganja is on the increase. There is an urgent need to declare an all-out-war against drug abuse. Before the situation goes out of hand and becomes severe, one should be on alert,” he said.

As part of the routine, the police conduct checks at road junctions from 11 pm. They ask for vehicle documents and anyone unable to produce them is detained for questioning.

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