Amid the raging beef ban controversy, religious and separatist groups in Kashmir have started batting for a liquor ban in the state, although the government is unlikely to accept this demand in view of the considerable revenue it collects from the sale of alcohol.
Karwan-e-Islami, a religious organisation operating in the Valley, has filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court seeking a blanket ban on the sale and consumption of liquor in the state. Earlier, the chairman of Hurriyat Conference and head of Muttaheda Majilis-e-Ulema, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had said he would launch a state-wide agitation against the sale of liquor.
The state government, however, is unlikely to favourably respond to such demand as liquor is a major source of revenue. According to J&K Sales Tax officials, the state earned over Rs 475 crore as revenue from the sale of alcohol from 2013 to 2015.
The chairman of Karwan-e-Islami, Moulana Ghulam Rasool Hami has complained in his PIL that the state government has failed to take necessary measures for the prohibition of sale of liquor although Section 24 of the J&K Constitution obliges the government “to make every effort to safeguard and promote the health of its people”.
He has further argued that various other states including Gujarat, Kerala, Manipur and the union territory of Lakshadweep have passed laws banning the sale and consumption of liquor.
Rasool Hami has also alleged that the state government is providing security cover to a liquor outlet at Batwara, Srinagar, thus encouraging consumption of alcohol. He said this has endangered the health of the youth who have taken to liquor consumption due to its easy availability.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq along with many religious leaders in a recent meeting of Muttaheda Majilis-e-Ulema appealed to the people of Kashmir to support the agitation demanding liquor ban.
“It is our religious duty to ensure that the sale of liquor is banned in Kashmir. Alcohol consumption cannot be tolerated in this Muslim majority state,” the resolution passed by MMU said.
In 2014, then PDP MLA and now Rural Development Minister Abdul Ahad Khan had admitted a private member’s bill seeking the ban on manufacture, advertisement, sale, purchase and consumption of liquor in the state. The then Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather of the National Conference had opposed the bill, saying it was one of the main sources of revenue for the government.