news Saturday, May 30, 2015 - 05:30
    An alcohol de-addiction activist is set to approach the Kerala High Court questioning the state government’s “permission” to the church to manufacture red wine for religious purposes, while denying him permission to produce arrack for the same reason.   Chairman of the Kozhikode-based Alcohol Addiction Protection Society, Haneesh Pathiyeri was denied permission by the Excise Department to produce arrack, which is used in certain rituals for deities in his family temple, the Padiyeri Bhagavati Kshethram.   In April, after a prolonged legal battle, the government of Kerala implemented prohibition in a phased manner in the state. However, wine and beer are not banned under Kerala’s liquor policy which seeks to reduce the consumption of hard liquor, which is still available in a limited manner through government outlets and high end bars. Arrack was banned in 1996.   Pathiyeri’s family temple, reportedly over a hundred years old, is located in Mankavu village, and although its principal god is Bhagavathi, arrack was traditionally offered to smaller deities like Dandan, Guru, Mala Daivam, Bhairavan and Gulikan, Pathiyeri says.   After the production and sale of arrack and other home-made distillates was banned in 1996, Pathiyeri says he began to use branded liquor for religious rituals. Now, although he is against alcohol consumption, he says he is bound to protect the religious beliefs associated with his family temple.   Asked why he could not offer beer or wine to the deities, Pathiyeri said that he should be allowed to follow his tradition. “Like in Churches (which use red wine), we traditionally use arrack to perform some rituals and one or two drops are given as prasadam,” he told The News Minute.     He says that it was hypocritical of the state government to permit churches to produce wine. “I was told by the excise department that existing laws do not support my demand (to produce arrack), whereas there is a law that permits the Church to produce wine. I have decided to approach High Court,” Haneesh said.   The Kerala Syro-Malabar Church’s application to the state government seeking permission to raise wine production for sacraments has been a controversial one. The church has sought permission to produce 5,000 litres per year, a steep climb from the present production of 1,250 litres of wine. The fact that the church had strongly lobbied for closure of bars in the state, has added fuel to the fire.

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