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Lucknow citizens go Gandhian on liquor merchant

September 21, 2006 02:20 IST
In what was clearly inspired by Bollywood blockbuster 'Lage Raho Munna Bhai', a group of local citizens on Wednesday, took the Gandhian path to lodge their protest against the continuation of a liquor shop in a residential area.

Not only did the group of about three dozen young men donned Gandhi caps and marched silently through the city streets, but also offered flowers to the liquor shop-owner whom they have been urging to shift his business to some other place.

They took to the streets in this unique manner after the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court dismissed a public interest litigation seeking shifting of the liquor shop from that residential area.

The court had reportedly dismissed the petition on the ground that a similar issue was pending before the Apex Court.

To express their displeasure with court order, the 'Gandhian' protestors first went to the High Court where they gave a rose along with a copy of the memorandum to every lawyer on the premises.

"We want our voice to be heard by all and sundry including those who did not pay any heed to our plea in the court," said Shiv Kumar Lakhani, one of the protestors, who lives close to the liquor shop.

Their obvious reference was to the High Court bench that had turned down their PIL.

This was followed by another march to the local excise office where they offered flowers together with a copy of the memorandum to the deputy excise commissioner. Then came the turn of the additional district magistrate, who is in charge of awarding liquor shop licences.

Thereafter, they went to the liquor shop itself and repeated their act. However, the shop-owner Gurnam Singh, a powerful liquor baron, hastily called the cops who took the protestors into custody and huddled them to the nearby Hazratganj police station. Since they had committed no crime to make them liable to be booked, they were all let off after a warning not to disrupt peace.

The memorandum said, "we have been inspired by the film 'Lagi raho Munna Bhai' to adopt the Gandhian way to lodge our protest against the running of a liquor shop at 20 Rana Pratap Marg - within 15 metres of both a Lord Shiva Temple and a mosque; we have decided to offer flowers to no only the shop keeper but also everyone in the court where our plea against the shop was turned down."

The memorandum added, "We are thankful to actor Sanjay Dutt who has shown us the unique Gandhian path to register our protest, in the same manner as he chose to fight injustice in the film."

The memorandum also sought people's participation in a 'Maha Durga Jagran' yajna , the protestors propose to organise outside the liquor shop on September 24. "We wish to send out our message to all those who were responsible for allowing opening of a liquor shop in that vicinity," it added.

Liquor shop owner Gurnam Singh tried to cover up his embarrassment by saying, "Let them send flowers, we will send them a bouquet." His son Daljit Singh claimed, "We keep funding the temple; and if the temple priest has no objection, why should anyone else? We will not get browbeaten like this." He told reporters, "We are already contesting the case in court and will abide by whatever the court orders."

When contacted, even additional district magistrate J P Singh looked sheepish on the count. "This is the first time I have come across this kind of protest and a unique memorandum like this; it has really surprised me." He however denied having seen the film.

Interestingly, even some of the policemen who arrested the protestors felt awkward. "The protest was unusual and has made us wonder what to do", confessed one of them.

Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow