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Lucknow: After a protest by Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, a Hindutva outfit, over a viral video purportedly showing some Muslims offering namaz in the newly opened Lulu Mall in Lucknow, the Uttar Pradesh Police registered a first information report (FIR) against unknown Namazis for “promoting enmity between religious groups.
The Mahasabha launched a protest in Lucknow against the Lulu group and its owner, Yusuffali M.A., for allowing visitors to offer namaz in the mall arena. The activists of Mahasabha have been exerting pressure on the district administration for action against the mall management and the people seen in the viral video.
Subsequently, the mall’s authorities issued a statement and distanced themselves from the ‘controversy’. The mall management also sent out a letter to Sushant Golf City police in connection with the incident. It also clarified that those offering namaz were not employees of the mall but visitors, and said it will ensure that no such incident repeats. The management put up notices on the premises stating that it will not allow any religious prayers in the mall.
The Wire has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the video in question and identify those who offered namaz in the mall.
However, the clarification from the mall management did not convince the Hindutva outfits which directly targeted Lulu Group owner Yusuffali, a Muslim. They accused him of only employing Muslims and sending profits earned in India to Dubai.
Long ago it was feared that Lulu Mall is related to a billionaire from Kerala and most of the employees in the mall are Muslim and belong to Kerala! By offering Namaz in public places, it is like defying the Govt ! @myogiadityanath Ji pic.twitter.com/Y5rT0YPd1A #LuluMallLucknow
— Raghvesh Narain Tripathi (@20Raghvesh) July 14, 2022
In the late evening on Thursday, July 14, the police registered a case against an unknown namazis (one who offers namaz/prayer). The Hindutva outfit threatened to protest against the newly-opened mall, but the police registered the FIR based on the complaint of the mall’s management.
Aggrieved by the video of people offering namaz in the mall, Mahasabha launched an agitation against the mall’s management. Members of the Mahasabha went to Golf City Police Station in Lucknow to lodge their complaint.
The Hindutva outfit also sought permission to recite Sundar Kand in the mall. They alleged in their complaint that the Lulu group is using the mall to promote “Love Jihad”.
Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha demands action
In its complaint to the local police, Mahasabha underlined that in the newly inaugurated mall, 70% of the employees are male Muslims and 30% are Hindu female staff. The Hindu fundamentalist organisation also announced a protest outside the mall and appealed to the Hindu community to boycott the mall.
Speaking to The Wire, Shishir Chaturvedi, Mahasabha’s spokesperson, said, “Lulu Group will earn a lucrative profit from India and send money to Dubai. Did the chief minister check that the mall is constructed as per Lucknow Development Authority’s norms or not? If the mall is not constructed as per rules, where are Baba’s (Yogi) bulldozers?”
According to Chaturvedi, the mall is promoting “Love Jihad” as the number of male Muslim staff members are more than female Hindu employees. He also alleged that the Lulu group donated its profit to extremist Islamic groups that beheaded Hindus.
Chaturvedi further added that the Adityanath-led UP government banned namaz or other religious activities in public places. “Despite this, people offered namaz in the mall, so the administration should take strict action to stop religious activities in public places.”
While the management of the Lulu Mall clarified its position by saying in a statement that the Lulu Group respects all religions and does not allow any religious activities in the mall arena, Sameer Verma Mall’s general manager told the media that all the security staff members have been directed to keep a vigil on such activities.
“Our aim is to make Lulu Mall Lucknow an international shopping destination,” he added.
When The Wire contacted the local police, they said that a complaint had been sent by Mahasabha. According to Ajay Pratap Singh, inspector, Golf City, the investigation into the matter is going on, and to ascertain the facts, police will check the CCTV cameras in the mall.
“We will also contact the mall’s management during the investigation.”
According to the police, an FIR has been registered against unknown Namazis under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings), 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint) and other relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.
‘Negative impact on investors’
Many believe that the incident sent the wrong message to the investors. Senior journalist Atul Chandra says, “The Yogi-government must act against Hindutva outfits which are creating obstacles to the state’s progress.”
Chandra opined that the fanatic groups choked the progress and prosperity of many people, as, after such instances, investors would consider multiple times before investing in the state.
“They are destroying the plan of CM Yogi, who from time to time, invites business tycoons to the state for investments,” he added. It is estimated that the mall will generate 5,000 direct and 10,000 indirect jobs.
Another political observer, Ram Dutt Tripathi, says “such an atmosphere of hate will erode investor attraction from the state”.
“If the government is really serious about seeking investments, it should tighten the noose around these fanatic groups. Investors always choose to invest where they get a profit in return, which is only possible in a peaceful society,” Tripathi added.
Chief minister Adityanath himself inaugurated the Lulu Mall in the state capital on July 10 in a grand function organised by Lulu Group chairman Yusuffali MA. The Lulu Group had given full-page advertisements carrying pictures of the chief minister in almost all the leading daily newspapers. The inauguration ceremony was also attended by the speaker of the UP Assembly, Satish Mahana, and former deputy chief minister, Dr. Dinesh Sharma.
During the ceremony, the chief minister expressed happiness over the establishment of the mall in Lucknow and the plans of the Lulu Group to make investments in other towns of the state, including Prayagraj, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, and Kanpur.
With the launch in Lucknow, Lulu Group International now has five malls in India. The others are in Kochi, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Thrissur. The mall in Lucknow is spread over 2.2 million square feet and has come at an investment of Rs 2,000 crore.