The Christian community of Mumbai reacts to the Muslim community's demands for a liquor ban on December 24 (Eid-e-Milad), coinciding with Christmas eve
As members of the Muslim community demand a liquor ban on December 24, a day on which both Eid-e-Milad and Christmas eve fall, the Christian community has expressed strong objections to this restriction on their festivities.
'Midnight mass' in the city ends before midnight, thanks to noise rules. File pic
Brother Joseph Dias, founder of the Catholic-Christian Secular Forum, said, "Firstly, people who do not drink should observe self-restraint. During our festivals, Christians largely consume alcohol. The government shouldn't interfere with what we do in our home, and if this ban is implemented, Christians will see the state in a negative light. Ban on liquor has nothing to do with religion. After the beef ban, next we will have communities demanding no pork."
Brother Joseph Dias feels people who do not drink should observe self-restraint
"Bans are not advised at any time. They deprive people of their fundamental rights – be it a beef ban or an alcohol ban. Each person is entitled to his or her own space, which these bans deprive them of," said Dr Abraham Mathai of the Harmony Foundation, who was the former vice-chairman of the state's minorities commission.
By asking for the ban for their holy day, one community is depriving the other of celebrating their holy day properly, said Alphi D'souza, sarpanch of the Mobai Gaothan Panchayat. "If this continues, Christians will also ask for bans on Good Friday. Just because one minority was allowed, now all others are following suit, asking for bans on their festivals," he said, referring to the ban on meat during the Jain festival of Paryushan.
Christmas celebrations are already marred by one severe restriction – like all other events held in public spaces, Christmas masses held at public grounds are forced to end by midnight. This means even the traditional midnight mass is no longer held at midnight but starts around 10 pm instead.
"I have written several times to the government, asking for the mass timings to be reconsidered. We should at least be allowed to hold midnight mass on Christmas and Easter. The authorities need to review the rule and relax it. For centuries, midnight mass has been part of the Christian tradition, but its significance will be lost, at this rate, said Dolphy D'souza, NAGAR coordinator (Better Policing).
Christmas will be restricted further by the liquor ban, said Dolphy, adding, "Bans are counter-productive; they divide people and have no relevance in today's times. They only stoke communal tensions. Everyone will start calling for bans at this rate, citing religious reasons."
Former top cop Julio Ribeiro also said he is against all bans, but suggested a way out for the community: "The political decisions behind bans are trouble. However, the community can stock alcohol earlier if they wish. Christians should not drink and go for mass anyway."
Voices of the youth
Christina Aguir, 25, Malad resident
This is like the Grinch stealing Christmas. As long as we are drinking in our houses, celebrating and not harming anyone, I don’t see the need for a ban. The celebration of the festival is incomplete without a drink to warm the bones on a cold winter night.
Albert D’souza, 23, Andheri resident
It’s Eid, so let them celebrate their way; it’s Christmas, so let us celebrate our way. We are already suffering because of the beef ban, this will make it worse. The joy and fun of Christmas will be robbed if this ban goes ahead. I have nothing against Muslims, but they don’t drink anyway, so how does it affect them if others drink or sell alcohol?
Premika Rozario, 25, Colaba resident
No celebration is complete without alcohol in my house. It cannot be a dry Christmas Eve - how can they even suggest this? Each community needs to respect the other, not curtail them.
Brent Gomes, 22, Borivli resident
Christmas Eve is a day of celebration and this ban affects the essence of it. We live in a country of diversity. Everyone should be allowed to practice and follow what they believe in, and restrictions should in no way be imposed on others, especially in a case like this.
‘A loss to business’
Meldan D’Cunha, Chef, Restaurateur, Soul Fry (Bandra), The Local (Fort)
If it has not been a dry day before, how can anyone define a dry day at any time? If someone doesn’t want to drink, they should not drink. If someone doesn’t want to enjoy, don’t enjoy. It will be a loss to business and more than that, it will also be a loss of revenue for the government.
Chef Rohan D'Souza, Head Chef, Radio Bar (Bandra) and Silver Beach Cafe (Fort and Juhu)
It’s very unfortunate that both the festivals clash with due respect to both religions. Christmas is one big festival in the Christmas calendar when Christians let their hair down and look forward to it months ahead. Since Christmas headlines the festive spirit leading up to New Year, it's not only celebrated by Christians but by a lot of faiths. A dry day will definitely dampen the festive spirit. A brand like Radio Bar would do a 70% sale on spirits and wines and Silver Beach Cafe would do a 50% sale on spirits & wines.
Pankil Shah, Co-owner, Woodside Inn - Colaba and Andheri
While it is not passed yet, if it does it will definitely hurt the restaurant industry. Right now, it is peak season for us, and a lot of restaurants depend on the period between December 24 to January 1 to cover costs, through the year. We do see 15-25% jump in revenues during this time because there are a larger number of footfalls as it’s the holiday season. More so, Christmas Eve is something you always celebrate because December 25 is a holiday.
Ashish Sajnani, Director, OPA Hospitality and KSW13 Hospitality
December 24 is celebrated not only in our city or India but also across the world every year. If you cannot raise a toast or celebrate, then who would like to go to a restaurant or a pub? We would not earn revenues on that day. At one point, the government is keen to make Mumbai an international city and on the other hand, to give into demands for religious appeasement would be going against secular interests.
Fr. Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Bombay, said , “The focus of Christmas is the birth of Christ. We do not want to get into the dry day debate. When the body of Christ is received the celebration is complete.”