Chilling Collusion Between State & Cow Vigilantes: The Case of Hotel Hyatt Rabbani

A vociferous citizens protest, led by civil liberties group, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Rajasthan has alleged that Sunday’s attack and public beating, of hotelier Rabani is a clear case of collusion between the Gau Rakshaks (cow vigilante groups) and a section of the Jaipur Police Commissionerate,the Jaipur Municipal Corporation and its Mayor and the BJP at the Highest level

Protest against attack on rabbani Hotel

The sealing and seizing of Hotel Rabbani on KC Road, Banipark, Jaipur by the Jaipur Municipal corporation, (JMC) on the night of March 19, night at 11pm after the Gaurakshaks held the hotel hostage for more than five hours is a clear case of collusion between the vigilante groups and sections of the state apparatus.

Here is a day by day account of the events:
The sealing of the hotel followed ‘their allegations’ of beef being cooked and consumed at the hotel, forcing the occupants of twenty rooms of the Hotel to vacate the place at the late hour, sealing and seizing the hotel, lodging of an FIR number 45 u/s 295 alleging the cooking of beef in the Hotel and offending the religious sentiments of the Hindus by the act of the hotel staff feeding beef to stray cows, the illegal arrest of two employees of the hotel and the witch-hunt of Mr. Rabbani as if he is a fugitive clearly affirms the direct collusion of the Gaurakshaks, the police, the JMC and those in power in the BJP in targeting Muslims in the State.

Further the delay in lodging Mr. Rabbani’s FIR, three days after the incident by the police( FIR number 46/2017 and its registration under simple bailable sections of 143, 451 and 323 IPC, strengthens the case of bias against the Muslim community of the State agencies being strongly made out by the PUCL.

 In the backdrop of the rise of Yogi Avaidyanath to the position of CM in UP the hardline of the BJP is raising its head in Rajasthan now. The incident of Hotel Rabbani is a clear illustration of this position. It is also obvious to all that the BJP in Rajasthan will use every such situation to cause communal polarisation between the communities, in the run up to the 2018 State Assembly elections..

 In a joint protest meeting of a wide spectrum of citizens from organisations like the left parties, human rights organisations, women’s groups, Dalit groups and Muslim and social organisations, held on the March 21, 2017 outside the Jaipur Police Commissioners office at Shahid Smarak in Jaipur more than 2500 people gathered. There were men and women from all communities, although the Muslim community members outnumbered other communities. (see photos and memorandum attached)

Protest against attack on rabbani Hotel

Speaker after speaker condemned the collusion of the State agencies in particular the police and the JMC in the attack that took place on Hotel Rabbani and its owners and staff. They also spoke of the increasing communal nature of governance and pledged that the harmony of the city would not be allowed to be vitiated by the state agencies. 
The main demands of the speakers was that all police officials who were in collusion that evening including DCP West Mr Ashok Kumar, Incharge Bani Park Dharmendra Kumar and others should be suspended, apart from departmental and administrative action, criminal cases should also be lodged against them. FIR no 45/2017 should be closed with immediate effect. Naeem Rabbani’s application should be converted into an FIR immediately with strong sections being applied, the hotel should be de-sealed  with immediate  effect and cases under the IT Act and suitable IPC sections, should be lodged against the Mayor who falsely spread via watts app that cows were made to eat beef by the Hotel  Rabbani.  

 The Collusion of the police and the Gaurakshaks
Was the Sadhvi led attack on the hotel by Gaurakshaks spontaneous or planned, is something that will emerge following investigations and inquiry, if there is a fair and impartial investigation allowed into the whole incident. The incident on the evening of March 19 began with Qasim the cleaner from the hotel throwing garbage at the designated place of the JDA at about 5.30pm, the time at which Sadhvi Kamal Didi herself is at the garbage dump trying to catch stray cows in order to escort them to Hingonia Gaushala. Within a few minutes of throwing of the garbage, the Sadhvi rounded up more than a hundred Gaurakshaks ( none of them belonged to that area) and begins an aggressive protest outside Hotel Hyatt Rabbani, showing how well organised these forces are, ever on a vigil to mobilise people to attack Muslims.

That the police reached within minutes of the Sadhvi reaching and instead of firmly dispersing the crowd who was threatening the hotelier and staff, they instead started pandering to the Gaurkshaks wishes. They let the protestors barge into the Hotel and even beat up the receptionist Wasim Khan, raising serious questions regarding the police’s compliance with the law of the land.

 On learning that the police was looking for him and a protest was taking place outside his Hotel, the owner Naeem Rabbani reached the Sindhi camp police station with another Hotelier Irshad, requesting the police to talk to them at the police station. The audio recording (which is attached along with the script), between the Irshad, the police and Kamal Didi shows clearly that the police are letting Sadhvi Kamal decide what needs to be done by the police. The Sadhvi insists over the phone that they should choose between their hotel shutting down or facing ‘them’ (that is the mob) for the ‘wrong things’ that they were doing. She also threatens that if Irshad and Rabbani donot come to the Hotel site then their hotel will be closed down (sealed). She threatens them with this statement repeatedly. She also said that she would get them police protection and they should come. When they say that they have been stopped at the Police station and cannot come, she abuses them. When she returned the phone to the Bani park Thana incharge, he angrily said over the phone to Irshad and Rabbani,” that first you make mistakes and then you don’t come and talk”. Then tells his police at the police station to sendthem,” send them, send them”, meaning, send them to the hotel.

Mr Rabbani at the Police Station, Sindhi Camp at 8 pm
It is very important to ask the question, of the determination and purpose for dragging Rabbani and Irshad to the hotel, which the police officials need to answer. The Thana in-charge clearly knew the consequence of facing the mob, which was being aroused by the rabble rouser. Did the police want them to be handed over to the mob?
This very disturbing audio, gives away the intent of the police in this case and further establishes the collusion.

Thereafter, Naeem Rabbani and Irshad refuse to go to the Hotel. When they donot reach the police tries to hunt them down as if they were fugitives on the run. From the literature that they got from the hotel which were pamphlets and books of the SIO, Jamait Islami Hind and Maulana Wahiuddin’s writing on communal harmony, they reach the Jamiat office. When they learn they are not there, they go to Naeem Qureishi’s house. When they donot find him there the police, picked up his brother in law Abdul Rehman, who has no connection with the hotel and brought him to the police station and keep him there.  This was till we activists got him out of the police station a few hours later.

 Why was the police so desperate to get him to the Rabbani Hotel.?After all they were not running away and had on their own gone to the Sindhi camp Police station to talk to the police. Its clear that the Jaipur police had become the private police of the Sadhvi and wanted to hand them over to the crowd.

Finally, when Naeem Rabbani refuses to go back, the police, who had detained the two Qasim and Wasim, took Wasim  back to the hotel much later, when the crowds were still at large, and in the presence of the police, Wasim is beaten up by the Sadhvi and the crowd, despite police presence.  The police’s explanation for this is that they needed somebody from the hotel to ask the occupants to vacate the rooms as they had to get the hotel sealed. Even if this is correct, then why was there a breach of security and the private army of gaurakshaks allowed to attack Wasim?

 Guilty before Trial: Mayor Ashok Lahoti, declares the meat to be Beef and the Hotel is sealed.
 Hotel Hyatt Rabbani is a medium level standard hotel, has a total of twenty-eight rooms with almost hundred percent occupancy round the year. Business on a daily basis is almost to the tune of Rs. 45 to 50,000.It is 6 years old. According to Mr. Rabbani, for the last three years since 2013, the hotel license has been applied for at the JMC, but they have not received it despite pursuing it regularly and filing commercial taxes for everything. The process of receiving licenses from the JMC is ridden with bribes and red tape and most of the Hotels after 2005 have not received their licenses.

The hotel has a kitchen presently only used for the in-house staff. Earlier they had a license for room service but they closed it two years ago as supplying food is an expensive investment with little returns. That license could be renewed any time. So basically the kitchen which is a very small once only caters to the food of the in-house staff.

On the March 19, 20 rooms were occupied and by evening, more guests were expected and thus the room occupancy would have been even higher,  they had had prior bookings of private parties. When Mr. Rabbani did not feel safe to go back to his hotel with the Guarakshak crowd siting there, he left the police station, when he realised that the police was working in tandem with Sadhvi Kamal didi. He had stayed at the Police station from after 8 to 8.3opm and then left.
At some point of time in the evening the councillor of ward 25 where the hotel is located, Nirmala Sharma, also turned up and she along with the Sadhvi in tandem got the Mayor Ashok Lahoti to seal the hotel.

At about 9pm, Wasim the receptionist was taken by the SI Chiranjeevi Lal to the hotel to check out the guests from the hotel. The moment he stated getting into the hotel he was slapped hard by the Sadhvi and many others also piled on. He was humiliated by the crowd, all this in the presence of the police.

There was constant chanting of  slogans like Jai Shree Ram, Narendra Modi ki Jai and Rabbani Murdabad, Bharat Mata ki jai. The guests left soon after, but were very unhappy as it was very late in the night. One child had a terrible stomach pain and was not in a condition to go but the JMC people arrived along with the crowds they were also forced to leave. There was an atmosphere of fear and intimidation and all the guests were also told that this hotel cooks beef, thus filing hatred in them against the hotel.
Wasim being beaten up by the Sadhvi and others in the presence of the police.

 Persons from the JMC arrived at about 10pm and the hotel was sealed soon after. As had happened earlier, shutters were pulled down as the y were pulling down shutters, locking and sealing the place, those gathered were chanting slogans. The BJP councillor was very much in it and did not tell the people to hold restraint. By 11.00 pm the complete seal and seizure happens. What is very interesting is that the Mayor of the city of Jaipur, Ashok Kumar Lahoti from phone 9414100007at about 12.27 am, put out the following damning statement in the BJP media cell, Rajasthan watts app group which said, ‘‘होटल Hayatt, KC रोड़ बनी पार्क द्वारा गौमाता को बीफ खिलाने केदुः साहस करने पर नगर निगम जयपुर (team Jaipur) के अधिकारियों को रात्री11 बजे मौके पर भेज कर होटल कोseizeकिया गया।

 As seen in the image below, one Sachin has responded with an excellent Watts app message sent by the Mayor Ashok Lahoti spreading falsehood and provoking the public.

It is obvious that Ashok Lahoti of the BJP now mayor, has decided to use this opportunity to polarise the situation further and take it beyond the individual’s reputation of beef to hitting at the business of a member of the Muslim community. Without any evidence he called the meat beef in his message and further said, see how brazenly Hotel Hyatt made ‘Gau Mata eat beef, that is why at 11pm, I sent the JMC Jaipur team officials and seized the hotel.’

This was a well orchestrated plan of targeting from all ends a hotelier who is a Muslim and is running a good business. 
Simultaneously the police immediately filed the FIR written out by Sadhvi that evening itself and lodged it under section 295 IPC, in the early hours of March 20. The FIR number 45/ 2017 says that: ‘Sadhvi Kamal Didi, House number 9/228 Chitrakoot, Vaishali Nagar, Jaipur in a report presented to the police stated that, today March 19, 2017, at about 4pm, with the help of the Nagar Nigam I was taking the helpless and injured cows to the Hingonia Gaushala from the place where the cows had gathered in Kanti Nagar. Just then two boys came and threw meat in front of the cows. The meat, I have a doubt, is beef. Since they wrongly disposed of the meat, extremely strict action must be taken against the Hotel owner. Local people too complained that every Sunday meat is thrown in front of the cows, which seriously offends our religious feeling. They have no licence of slaughtering animals. It is requested that we refuse to tolerate any further, such actions like throwing meat in front of cows or such outrageous acts by these people etc.’

The first step of the investigation was a letter sent to the FSL Director by the SHO Manphool Singh, soon after, stating that“ during the investigation the complainant showed us the bones of leftover meat which was seized and through a memo indicated.  This is being submitted to the Director FSL for the seeking clarification whether the meat remnants in the packet, which have been seized from the place,are beef or meat of any other animal.Sections relating to the Rajasthan Bovine Animal Act, 1995 will also be added depending upon what the FSL says.’
Thus, the entire case is based on false rumour-mongering following which the mob dictates actions of the police and a member he ruling party joins in. The police slaps a false case of ‘offending people of another religion’, the meat is sent to the FSL based on a false FIR and the hotel is shut down on the mere rumour being spread ‘that they madegau mata eat beef.’

It was the actions and statements of BJP leader Ashok Lahoti that led to the Hotel being sealed on claims that the owner had no license for either running a hotel or a restaurant.  If that were the reason for sealing it and there was no license, due process should have been followed by the JMC which should have issued notices and proceeded as per the rules.

 It is our understanding that the Rajasthan Bovine Animal (Prohibition of Slaughter and Regulation of Temporary Migration or Export) Act, 1995  has been applied and used in the backdrop of deliberately whipped up emotions. This law gives the powers (to the authorities) to enter any building, search and seize what they think is appropriate. The burden of proof is then on the accused to prove that they have not violated the law. In this case, Mr Rabbani and others, if charged with this law can be punished from a minimum a year’s imprisonment to 10 years under sec 8 of the act.

Meeting the CEO of JMC

The CEO told us that he had no idea that JMC had locked the premises of an hotel as the Dy Commissioner of JMC is competent to do it. He then asked for the file. He said he will see if due process was followed. De-sealing the Hotel requires the involvement of the CEO in the decision making, so he would be involved now. The Mayor did not meet us that day.

The police commissioner on the March 20, ofcourse met two delegations, one of citizens and one of hoteliers met the Jaipur Police commissioner in the afternoon at 2pm. Also present was the DCP west when the meeting happened, who was present that evening at the Hotel when the
incident happened. The police commissioner refused to accept that there was any collusion and instead said that if we had a grievance we too should lodge and FIR. He ofcourse assured the citizens groups that there was no reason of arresting Naeem Rabbani but he should be available for investigation and that the sample of meat being sent for Forensic examination would not be tampered with.

The Hoteliers, felt that all those who were Muslims would be now a very easy target of the hoodlums and just false cries ‘of possession of beef’ could have them falsely booked. The police commissioner also told them to see it as a one offish event and that this would not be recorded
It was only on March 22 that the police finally registered the FIR of Mr. Rabbani, the contents of which are a complete eye-wash: After an attack which changed Mr. Rabbani’s life and that of his staff, terrorised the Muslim community, the sections applied to the violence that they were subjected are weak. All sections applied are bailable sections of unlawful Assembly (143), simple battery (323) and trespass (451) of the IPC. Interestingly the text of Mr. Rabbani’s FIR gives the names of the accused who violated the law s but even Sadhvi Kamal Didi is not named as an accused. The intent of the Jaipur police to do justice in this case has been sorely wanting.

Neither have the the CM or any other representatives of the State Government nor the biggest opposition party, the Congress issued a statement with regard to this incident.
(The writers are from the PUCL, Rajasthan)

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