As the Friday prayers in Jamia Masjid ended, a young man came out of the mosque gate, wore his shoes and raised a large pink chart with a message “Close all liquor shops in Kashmir”.
Shots of tear gas canisters rang loud in the air amid pro-freedom slogans by youths who hurled stones at security forces positioned outside the Masjid complex. Amid this chaos, this tall young man – dressed in a black pullover and a skull cap – started his monologue in Kashmiri.
Saamiullah, an autorickshaw driver by profession, who moonlights as an activist, urged, “The liquor shops in Kashmir should be shut. If you believe in that please sign on this paper.”
Within minutes, scores of people flocked to him and started signing on the chart, even as some shouted slogans condemning the high-handedness of security personnel in Kashmir.
“Many people die due to alcoholism every year, there is data. There is nothing religious about my protest. It’s only for the health of Kashmiris. I demand these shops be shut down,” Saamiullah, a resident of the Chattabal area of Srinagar, said.
The 30-year-old claims to have been protesting outside various liquor shops in the Valley since June 2014.
“I and a few other activists put black tape on our lips and stand outside the liquor shops in Srinagar. We raise banners saying ‘Kashmir is a land of saints. We are Muslims. Stop sale of liquor and close all liquor shops’. The police soon pick us up even as our protest is always peaceful,” he added.
Saamiullah also has a Facebook page on this protest, where he says, “Our health-conscious event is for all, irrespective of caste, creed, colour, race and religion. This event is for the benefit of whole mankind.”
The page also documents dates when Saamiullah protested since June 2014 and his various signature campaigns.
Before starting the campaign against liquor sale in Kashmir, Saamiullah staged numerous others for various causes, including alleged human rights violations by the Indian armed forces in the Valley.