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Church continues opposition

- Mizoram govt set to revoke dry law at July 8 Assembly session

Aizawl, July 6: As the Lal Thanhawla government in Mizoram is all set to lift the 17-year-old controversial dry law, the Presbyterian Church, the largest denomination in the Christian-majority state, has stepped up its opposition.

For the second time, the synod of the Mizoram Presbyterian Church asked all its member churches across the state to organise mass prayer seeking for divine intervention to keep the dry law. The churches had organised mass prayer on the same issue on March 9.

The decision to hold mass prayers comes after the synod failed to garner support for a protest rally by three of the largest NGOs in Mizoram, Young Mizo Association, Mizo Hmeichhe Insuihkhawm Pawl (women’s organisation) and Mizoram Upa Pawl (senior citizens’ association).

The NGOs in separate meetings last week decided to remain aloof from the church-sponsored protest.

As part of the protest, the synod displayed posters in the city streets, demanding the government to keep the liquor prohibition in place. It has also sent letters to the chief minister, excise and narcotics minister and all the legislators urging them not to pass the bill in the state Assembly.

The Mizoram Liquor (Prohibition and Control) Bill 2014, to replace the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act 1995, will be introduced in the upcoming state Assembly session to start from July 8.

The church leaders, who had pressurised the then Congress government to impose the Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act in 1997, are still adamant that the dry law is a success.

“Since the implementation of total prohibition, our public areas have become safer and more peaceful, there have been less vehicular accidents caused by drink driving and alcohol-related violence has decreased visibly,” said a statement of the synod read out in all the member churches today.

“Given that alcohol harms human health, disturbs social relations and even spiritual well-being, we believe allowing alcohol to be more free is not likely to benefit us,” the note added.

The Presbyterian Church believes that “violent crimes such as murder, rape and accidents are mostly committed under the influence of alcohol”.

According to the church’s own assessment, in 1994, two years before Mizoram’s dry law was passed, 65 per cent of the women lost their husbands to alcohol abuse.

The synod is also of the opinion that revenues to be received from liquor taxes are not worth the lives to be destroyed by liquor.

The Baptist Church of Mizoram, the second largest denomination, also issued a strongly worded statement last week demanding the government to continue with the prohibition.

The Congress government, however, appears to be unfazed by the mounting pressure of the churches.

Indicating that the bill would be passed in the next state Assembly session, Congress minister Lal Thanzara on Friday said as a government, they could not ignore the sufferings of those who cannot do without drinks.

“(Under the dry law) foreigners are manufacturing liquor to make easy money. There are many church members who can’t do without liquor. The government is planning to give them good quality liquor at cheaper prices,” Lal Thanzara said, while addressing a public meeting here on Friday.

“Because of the scarcity of liquor, drinkers have no choice but to drink whatever liquor they can find. The life span of drinkers has become shorter because of spurious liquor,” he added.

Illicit liquor was responsible for 90 deaths in the past 17 years, according to the state excise and narcotics department records.

Home minister R. Lalzirliana, who also holds the excise and narcotics portfolio, has also made it very clear the churches would not be consulted on the liquor issue.