Listen to this article:
New Delhi: The management of the newly opened Lulu Mall in Lucknow has issued a statement saying that “over 80%” of its staff are Hindu.
This statement came after a viral video which purportedly showed some Muslims offering namaz in the mall – a day after it was open to the public on July 11 – led to police action against those who offered prayers.
The Uttar Pradesh police on Tuesday, July 19 arrested four people in this case. According to police officials, they had allegedly offered namaz inside the mall in an “unauthorised” manner. They added that efforts are on to trace four more accused in the case.
Police told news agency PTI that none of the accused are staff of the mall. All of them are residents of Lucknow, it added.
The Uttar Pradesh Police on July 15 registered a first information report against unknown persons in connection with the matter. They have been booked under IPC Sections 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 505 (statements conducing public mischief) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings). Although the police have not been able to trace the persons who offered namaz at the mall.
The complaint was filed by the mall management after the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha protested against the Lulu group and its owner, Yusuffali M.A., for allowing visitors to offer namaz in the mall arena, The Wire reported.
Yusuffali is from Kerala, who runs the Abu Dhabi-headquartered Lulu Group, the multinational conglomerate. The UAE-based Lulu Group has operations in 20 countries and an annual turnover of $8 billion.
The management had also clarified that those offering namaz were not employees of the mall but visitors, and said it will ensure that no such incident repeats.
According to the Indian Express, the Lulu Mall management in Lucknow on July 17 issued a statement denying allegations that it was favouring a community. “It is very unfortunate that some people for their own selfish interests are trying to target our institution. Among our employees are local residents, and people from UP and across the country. Of these, over 80% are Hindu, the rest are Muslims, Christians and others. Nobody in our organisation is allowed to conduct any religious activity. The mall administration has lodged an FIR against those who tried to offer prayers and namaz in a public place.”
“Lulu Mall is completely a business establishment, which conducts business without caste and class,” the statement issued in Hindi by Jaykumar Gangadhar, regional director, Lulu India Shopping Mall Pvt Ltd, said.
“The consumer is most important to us. Our establishment does business within the limits prescribed by government rules. Our employees are here not in the name of caste and religion but on the basis of work efficiency and merit,” it said.
Following Lulu’s statement, former Indian ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Suri tweeted, saying it was “tragic” that the group had to disclose the religion of its staff.
“The Lulu Group founded by M A Yusuff Ali in UAE have invested well over Rs 10,000 cr in India. They source over Rs 3000 crore of fresh produce from India for their hyper markets, create 1000s of jobs. And they have to disclose the religious identity of their staff? Tragic!” he wrote on Twitter.
The @LuLuGroup_India founded by @Yusuffali_MA in UAE have invested well over ₹10,000 cr in India. They source >₹3000 cr of fresh produce from India for their hyper markets, create 1000s of jobs. And they have to disclose the religious identity of their staff? Tragic! https://t.co/0H6GVx9WSn
— Navdeep Suri (@navdeepsuri) July 18, 2022
Akash Goenka, director of Shubham Goldee Masala Ltd and vice chairman of CII, Uttar Pradesh, told the newspaper: “The government is undertaking initiatives because of which international brands are coming to UP and consumer based companies like us are getting showcased. However, incidents like these are shocking. Incidents based on religious things are not welcome in any manner. When industrialisation happens, it does not see religion, it is for everybody.”
Separately, two people were on July 16 arrested after they entered Lulu Mall and started reciting the Hanuman Chalisa. At least 20 members of a right-wing outfit were detained for trying to recite Hanuman Chalisa inside Lulu Mall.
Lulu mall Namaz row: In UP’s Lucknow, two youth recite Hanuman Chalisa in the mall with a “notice saying religious prayers are not permitted inside the mall” put up on the glass wall. An FIR was earlier registered against unknown people for offering Namaz after a video surfaced. pic.twitter.com/7AZMj3VTwH
— Piyush Rai (@Benarasiyaa) July 16, 2022
On July 15, police had detained three people for allegedly attempting to recite Sundarkand inside the mall premises.
“The Lulu mall that is carrying out business activities has been turned into a political hotbed. Unnecessary statements are being made by certain people. Demonstrations are being organised to obstruct the movement of the people visiting the mall,” chief minister Yogi Adityanath told administrative and police officers, Hindustan Times reported.
“The Lucknow administration should take the matter seriously. Such disorder will not be tolerated. The miscreants trying to create disturbance in the mall should be dealt with strictly,” he said.
(With PTI inputs)
Published on July 19 at 12:45 pm, this story is being republished on the same date at 4:25 pm with an update on the arrest of four people in this case.