Around 8.10pm, two bike-borne terrorists stopped by the newly-opened store in the Dewan Bagh area, which was bustling with customers. The pillion rider, clad in a burqa, walked to the shop’s window and dropped a hand grenade through it and fled from the spot, police said in a statement.
In the explosion, four employees of the store sustained splinter injuries and were taken to a nearby hospital, where one of them, identified as Ranjit Singh (52) from Rajouri district, succumbed. Those wounded were identified as Govardhan Singh and Ravi Kumar from Kathua and Govind Singh from Rajouri. Govind has been referred to Srinagar hospital for specialised treatment, the statement added.
Immediately after the attack, senior police officers rushed to the spot. The area was cordoned off and a search operation was launched to trace the perpetrators, which continued till the time of going to press. A case was registered in this connection and further probe is underway, police said.
Various terrorist organisations, time and again, have issued diktats directing the closure of all liquor shops in Kashmir Valley to bring about “social change” and establish a new social order based on Islamic laws. Throughout the 90s, liquor stores were repeatedly attacked by terrorists and their vendors were threatened with death. Even movie theatres had to face the wrath of these proscribed outfits; while beauty parlours and boutiques almost vanished from the face of the Valley after being targeted by the lone women’s terrorist outfit Dhuktaran-e-Millat.
In 2017, the Mehbooba Mufti government even nullified the Airports Authority of India’s move to float a tender for a duty-paid liquor shop at Srinagar airport.
After a survey in 2020, however, the J&K administration identified 183 new locations — 116 in Jammu and 67 in Kashmir — for the sale of liquor. Approval was sought for e-auction of sale points from the finance department. Later, the order was modified and 224 wine shops were allotted in Jammu region while Kashmir Valley got only four liquor stores in security zones.
Now, the excise department has identified 51 new locations — 45 in Jammu division and six in Kashmir — for the sale of liquor. The J&K administration is also contemplating opening new liquor sale points in the Valley’s tourist destinations. In the Excise Policy 2022-23 announced earlier this month, several new conditions were incorporated.