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Indian Catholic politician reviled for seeking Good Friday liquor ban

Politicians and social media users call it 'unnecessary,' 'crazy' and a 'bad idea'

Indian Catholic politician reviled for seeking Good Friday liquor ban

People queue outside a liquor shop after the government announced restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Siliguri, West Bengal, India, on April 30, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 10, 2022 08:28 AM GMT

Updated: March 10, 2022 12:03 PM GMT

A Catholic politician’s demand that the state government in Tamil Nadu keep liquor shops closed on Good Friday has triggered a backlash on social media.

Peter Alphonse, the chairperson of Tamil Nadu Minorities Commission, wrote to Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on March 3 urging him to close all government liquor shops on April 15.

He said the liquor shops should be closed as a mark of respect and solidarity with the Christian community, which commemorates on Good Friday the passion and death of Jesus Christ with fasting and abstinence.

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Alphonse made the letter public on social media on March 9, triggering an immediate backlash from netizens and politicians who described it variously as “unnecessary” and a “bad idea.”

Even the supporters of Indian National Congress, the party to which Alphonse belongs, slammed the idea as “crazy.”

Social media users called his demand for keeping liquor shops closed “arbitrary” and tantamount to “imposing unnecessary restrictions” on other communities who do not adhere to his religious beliefs.

"This is a failure of the state. Unless they are reassured they will further go into a shell. I understand them, so I have no grievance against Mr. Alphonse’s letter”

However, Alphonse found support from Savukku Shankar, a prominent political critic.

Shankar, who has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter, told UCA News that “the minorities in this country are pushed to such a situation as they continue to lose faith in the state and look towards religion for safety.” 

“This is a failure of the state. Unless they are reassured they will further go into a shell. I understand them, so I have no grievance against Mr. Alphonse’s letter,” he added.

Archbishop George Anthony of Madras-Mylapore also supported Alphonse’s demand. “It is only a proposal. It is up to the state government to decide. Such a ban on liquor shops would be meaningful on Good Friday,” he said.

It is not unusual in a culturally and religiously diverse country like India for various communities to come up with their own demands or requests for their festivals or days of observance.

State governments are known to announce the closure of slaughterhouses and liquor shops on religious festivals like Mahavir Jayathi, the birthday of the founder of Jainism, and Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi, which happens to be the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.

But there was a severe backlash on social media last November against the state government after it announced such a ban on the enlightenment day of Mahavir, which coincided with Diwali, the popular Hindu festival. The government was forced to withdraw the ban notification.

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