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HindustanTimes Fri,18 Apr 2014

Fear grips Srinagar's Hemal Complex as militant outfit warns against liquor shops

Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times  Srinagar, November 16, 2012
First Published: 21:33 IST(16/11/2012) | Last Updated: 21:34 IST(16/11/2012)

A day after militants attacked a liquor shop at a busy tourist hub Boulevard in Srinagar, fear and panic was palpable on Friday at the Hemal Complex, the site where one salesman of a liquor shop was killed and three others were injured in the attack.

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More than a dozen shops housed in the Hemal Complex remained closed on Friday. Kashmir's largest militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen on Thursday evening told a local news agency that its men carried out the attack.
 
"We appeal to parents to keep their wards away from waywardness. We want all liquor shops to be closed," a Srinagar-based news agency quoted Hizb spokesman Junaid-ul-Islam.

The police are investigating the incident as it was a rare Hizb attack in Srinagar. Police sources said it was clueless about the attackers but were investigating the rare Hizb attack in the city.

The complex that came under attack from pistol borne militants houses three liquor shops. The complex is situated on the banks of the Dal lake, a favourite haunt among the tourists.
 
Besides the complex, all other commercial areas and food outlets on Boulevard remained busy with local and tourists shopping all day. "We are used to such incidents for the past twenty years. The attack did not impact our business today," said Zahoor Ahmad, a shopkeeper on Boulevard.
 
The city continues to be teeming with tourists despite off season and dip in temperature.

Srinagar has a very few liquor shops. Besides, Boulevard, liquor is only sold near the army cantonment near Badamibagh.
 
Last year, an improvised explosive device was defused by the police near the Hemal Complex. These liquor shops were apparent target of the explosive devices then also.
 
The sale of liquor in capital city of Srinagar has witnessed a phenomenal increase since tourists rush picked up in 2011, after two decades of slump.
 
According to official figures, the sale of liquor bottles has increased from 1.8 lakh bottles in 2009-10 to 7.3 lakh bottles in 2011. The valley hosted 12 lakh tourists in 2011 and this year the number is already on a higher side.
 
With the onset of militancy in the valley in 1990, several militant groups issued decrees against liquor shops, closing them down, particularly in downtown Srinagar.

Allah Tigers, a militant outfit launched to fight against un-Islamic practices like liquor and movies, burnt down dozens of liquor shops and parlors renting movie cassettes in broad day light. Since then the valley witnessed sharp decline in sales and revenue.
 
Kashmir valley still contributes only 2% of the revenue from sales as compared to Jammu region that contributes 98%, according to official figures.

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