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Widespread Outrage Over Opening of Liquor Shop on Outskirts of Srinagar

Anees Zargar |
Political parties term the move "in the garb of tourism" as “mischievous”. Call for its closure as the shop is located near a school and mosque and an area that has no tourism pull.
Widespread Outrage Over Opening of Liquor Shop on Outskirts of Srinagar

Image Courtesy: Kashmir Vision

Srinagar: The opening of liquor shop in the Srinagar outskirts of Pantha Chowk locality has led to outrage in the valley with many, including some leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, calling for its closure.

Some political leaders have termed the opening of the wine shop as “mischievous” and an act that will hurt the sentiments of the people, majority of whom are Muslims. 

Arguing for shifting of the wine shop to a tourist destination, BJP leader and party's spokesman Altaf Thakur on Monday said there is a school and a mosque near the shop that can hurt the sentiments of the people living in the vicinity.

“Kashmir is a conservative society and opening wine shops at public places can disrupt the peaceful atmosphere,” Thakur said.

Thakur urged the excise department and the UT administration to shift the wine shop to a tourist place from Pantha Chowk, which he said is not visited by tourists.

National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar termed the opening of wine shop, close to a prominent school in the valley, as “preposterous and mischievous”.

“Opening an alcohol shop at places where there is no tourist footfall in Kashmir is sheer irony. More so, a wine shop has come up in the vicinity of perhaps the largest school in Kashmir. When a number of states, including Gujarat, do not permit the sale of alcohol, this 'license' is for much more than what seems,” Dar said.

The UT administration earlier in February said that 51 new wine shops will be opened in the region including six in Kashmir valley after three decades of halt due to the threats from militant groups in the early 1990s. Militant outfits had back then launched a “crusade” against liquor in the valley and issued a ban on its consumption due to which many such shops were forced to shut. A few, however, continued to remain operational in what are known as “safe-zones” around tourist places.

Since March, there have been many protests including at Jammu against the decision many arguing that the decision push youth towards alcoholism. Even as there is no official ban, in Kashmir alcohol consumption is frowned upon and considered by some as a vice due on Islamic grounds.

Like Dar, another NC youth leader Ahsan Pardesi said he is deeply concerned by government’s decision to open wine shops throughout Kashmir something, he believed, will effect Kashmiri youth. “In the garb of tourism government is pushing youth towards liquor. There are states in India which have tourism and yet alcohol is banned. This will have cascading effect on our youth,” the leader said.

The decision was also criticised by youth president of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC) Sheikh Imran, who claimed that the decision is an attempt to youth towards new addiction.

“Wide condemnations on J&K administration's move to open wine shop at Pantha Chowk. This will not only indulge youth into new addiction but will also have serious ramifications on society, morally. Admin must roll back the order of opening wine shop at Pantha Chowk,” Imran tweeted.

The former deputy-Mayor of Srinagar added that if the decision is not rolled back he along with others will “intensify” their protest against the move.

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