Vrindavan, 2017.04.14 (VT): With the new Supreme Court ruling banning alcohol sales within 500 meters of national and state highways, liquor stores are shifting to markets and residential areas. In several areas of Uttar Pradesh, women are protesting this mass migration of liquor shops into their neighborhoods.
On Wednesday, the women of Mathura joined in the fight.
Outrage was directed at a newly-opened alcohol vendor at Krishnanagar Chaurah, where a group of ladies blocked access to the shop for a good forty-five minutes before police took control of the situation.
In front of the ancient Kankali Devi temple, demonstrators performed kirtan as they protested a liquor shop nearby. Women blocked the road at Bhuteshwar-Govardhan Chaurah, chanting slogans and demanding the closure of such ill-placed alcohol shops. The women brought traffic to a complete standstill for about an hour, until police assured protesters that the shop would be closed.
It’s not only the religious stigma against drinking that fuels the women’s fire; it is also a struggle against rampant alcohol abuse and the social terrors that go with it.
Prohibitionists argue that alcohol has never been an integral part of Indian culture. While brewed alcohol was a tradition, especially among India’s indigenous people, distilled alcohol was introduced during the colonial period. And Indians took to it without any of the associated western social and cultural rituals. As one anti-alcohol campaigner says: ‘Our upwardly mobile, globe-trotting young Indians proclaim it is all about drinking responsibly. How do I explain “responsibly” to a woman who has been beaten black and blue by her drunken husband? Maybe these youngsters have developed a culture of social drinking but look at the men in our villages and in poorer areas. They buy a quarter (180ml) of hard liquor and down it right there in the shop, then stagger home if they are lucky, or just collapse by the roadside.’ She argues: ‘For the wives and daughters of such men, only prohibition will do.’ – Mari Marcel Thekaekara, on Tamil Nadu’s women-led anti-alcohol protests in 2016
Full prohibition of alcohol may be unlikely in Uttar Pradesh, not only due to related problems like bootlegging, but also because of the huge amount of revenue alcohol brings in. The UP Excise Department’s projected income for the 2016-17 fiscal year was Rs 19,250 crore (almost 3 billion US dollars).
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