he UT J&K Government is going to open liquor sale points at different locations in the Kashmir valley, where since 1991 militant groups had declared a ban on its sale and consumption. The Excise Department has identified 183 new locations 116 in Jammu and 67 in the Kashmir valley for sale of liquor.

J&K Govt mulls to set up 187 new liquor shops in UT, 67 in Kashmir alone

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Wahid Bhat | Srinagar

The UT J&K Government is going to open liquor sale points at different locations in the Kashmir valley, where since 1991 militant groups had declared a ban on its sale and consumption. The Excise Department has identified 183 new locations 116 in Jammu and 67 in the Kashmir valley for sale of liquor.

The documents available with the Groundreport.in, includes an order issued from the office of Excise commissioner Jammu and Kashmir submitted to the Financial Commissioner, Finance department, Civil Secretariat. The order reads: “It is submitted that this office has divided the J&K UT area into 27. As per the survey conducted and in exercise of the powers under rule 28 of J&K Liquor and License rules, 1984 and section 4 (B) of the excise Act, a total list of 183 locations including 116 in Jammu and 67 in the zones of Kashmir is enclosed.”

Order further reads that it is request that the necessary approval may kindly be granted enabling to proceed further strictly under the rules by way of any transparent method, either e-auctioning zone wise or location wise as the government deems fit as a matter of policy. The order is duly signed by Rajesh Kumar Sharma, Excise commissioner J&K.

At present, the Union Territory has 224 wine shops with 220 in Jammu and four in Kashmir. Fearing militant threats, the four shops in Kashmir are running from high security zone areas.

As per the documents, the excise department’s survey has identified spots and places in south Kashmir’s all four districts—Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag. The survey also includes spots for sale points in Srinagar, Baramulla, Bandipora, Ganderbal and Budgam.

However, BJP has been opposing liquor sale in Jammu. In 2018, BJP leader and present president of the party Ravinder Raina had demanded that Jammu and Kashmir be declared a dry state, and alcohol and bars be banned immediately.

Early this month, the J&K government also prohibited transporting of liquor in vehicles having press stickers from one place to another. The government issued the order after it found a trader using vehicles with press stickers for transporting liquor.

Militants ban liquor in Kashmir
Since 1991, militant groups have declared a ban on liquor in Kashmir, while J&K is officially not a ‘dry region’. Liquor vends were closed in Kashmir after the Allah Tigers, a militant outfit, issued a blanket ban on its sale and consumption soon after the eruption of militancy in the region.

In 2017, it was all due to threats of militant and separatist groups that the then PDP-BJP government was forced to review its decision of opening a ‘duty-paid’ liquor shop even at the Srinagar airport.

No question of setting up new liquor shops
Kashmir’s Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam while strongly reacting to the proposal said that people of Kashmir will oppose the governments’ plans tooth and nail. “No question of setting up new liquor shops in Kashmir or Jammu. This is a fresh assault on the Kashmir’s culture and a move to drag Valley youth towards immorality,” he told KNO. The Grand Mufti said that fresh move will face stiff opposition from all quarters.

Karwan-e-Islami (KeI), one of the largest religious organizations in J&K. “We will not remain silent. The government’s decision is unfortunate. We will hit the streets to press for our demands to ban the liquor in the state”, Moulana Ghulam Rasool Hami, chairman of Kei, told Groundreport.in.

If killing bovines hurts the sentiments of any community, so does sale and consumption of liquor hurt the sentiments of Muslims. Why should it not be banned in a state where Muslims are the majority?” He said .

The demand for ban has come despite the fact that the Jammu and Kashmir is witnessing upward trend in the sale and consumption of different types of liquor.

531.88 crore revenue from liquor sales in 2015-16
Official figures reveal that around 219718 lakh bottles of different types of liquor was sold in J&K in 2015-16. Around 169161 lakh bottles of liquor was sold in the state in 2014-15. In 2013-14, around 1,53,563 lakh bottles of liquor was sold in J&K

Liquor sales is one of the biggest revenue generators for Jammu and Kashmir government. J&K excise department has realised Rs 531.88 crore revenue from liquor sales in 2015-16 compared to Rs 464.88 crore in 2014-15. In 2013-14, the department collected a revenue of Rs 439.04 crore from liquor sales in the state.

Though most of the liquor is consumed in the Jammu region, the Kashmir valley too has seen a surge in the liquor sale and consumption despite the ban imposed by the ultras.