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Omar scotches beer plans

Omar scotches beer plans

Author: Muzaffar Raina
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: January 14, 2009
URL: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1090114/jsp/nation/story_10388008.jsp

Vijay Mallya's Kashmir beer dream has crash-landed, with chief minister Omar Abdullah ruling today that the liquor baron can't grow hops in the state.

"The government is not interested in the project and the views expressed by Vijay Mallya are his own. The chief minister was categorical about not doing anything which will go against the religious sentiments of the people," an official spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the government had not received any proposal for the revival of hop cultivation.

Mallya had yesterday said he proposed to resume growing hops - used in the manufacture of beer - in Kashmir, an announcement that immediately triggered protests from separatists.

Today, Kashmir's Grand Mufti Bashir-ud-din said Jammu and Kashmir is a Muslim-majority state and nothing that goes against the religion of the majority would be tolerated.

"He (Mallya) should desist from going ahead with the project as it will hurt the sentiments of people. We will start peaceful protests against such deals," the Mufti, who is seen as pro-government, said.

Drinking is banned in Islam.

The liquor baron had yesterday recalled that his family started growing hops in Shilvat in 1973 but the facility was destroyed at the start of insurgency. Hops are used to balance the sweetness of the malt with bitterness. The more hops added, the bitter the beer.

Militants had in 1990 started a vigorous campaign to ban the sale of liquor, and several shops were damaged and forced to close down.

The National Conference government re-opened a few shops when it came to power in 1996, but they could not function normally.

During the last three years of the PDP-Congress government, five shops opened in the Valley despite opposition from separatist groups and social organisations.

Official sources said around 1.3 million bottles of liquor were sold in the Valley in a year till June 2008, most of them bought by tourists.

Hardline women's leader Aisiya Andrabi, who heads the Dukhtaran-e-Milat, slammed Mallya's proposal and said her group would start a campaign against the government, which she blamed for supporting the move.

"Liquor sale or consumption is against our ethics and morals and I am sure this proposal has the blessings of the government," she said.

The National Conference-led government had yesterday said it would react to Mallya's proposal once he approached it formally.

The liquor baron is a friend of Omar's father and National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah.

Andrabi has been at the forefront of most moral policing campaigns in Kashmir, including enforcement of purdah.

Jamait-e-Alhadees chief Moulana Showkat Shah also opposed the proposal, saying trade in liquor is forbidden in Islam.

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