Soon after the inauguration of the Lulu Mall in Lucknow Uttar Pradesh on July 10, a video (reportedly from July 12) went viral on social media showing a few people offering namaz in a corner of the shopping mall, while visitors walked around the place. This led to much heartburn among right-wing organisations that called for immediate boycott of the mall, some even demanding bulldozers be brought in!
The Lulu mall, said to be one of the largest retail outlets in northern India, boasts of 300 shops spread over 2.2 million square feet with an 11-storey parking space. It was inaugurated recently by chief minister Yogi Adityanath, and saw huge footfalls as soon as it opened. It is owned by Yussuffali M.A. from Kerala who runs the Abu Dhabi-headquartered Lulu Group, the multinational conglomerate.
But shortly after the video of people offering namaz went viral, the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, not to be confused with the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha reportedly raised an objection and asked all the Hindus to boycott the mall. The group’s national spokesperson Shishir Chaturvedi was quoted by The Telegraph as saying, “We have learnt that namaz was offered in a public area in the mall on Wednesday. If so, we want to recite the Sundar Kand and Hanuman Chalisa in the mall. We have also learnt that 70 per cent of the mall employees are Muslim and 30 per cent are Hindus. The mall is promoting Muslims and Islam.”
He told The Wire, “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?” India Today also quoted him as saying, “People offered namaz sitting on the floor in Lulu Mall, this video proves that government orders were violated in the mall. The government has directed that namaz cannot be offered in public spaces. I will request chief minister Yogi Adityanath to take action on such incidents and ensure that it does not happen again.”
The organisation has filed a First Information Report (FIR) with the Lucknow Police, 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.
The mall authorities meanwhile, visited Chaturvedi’s residence and assured him that no further namaz will be permitted inside the mall premises. They have also put up notices in different parts of the mall saying, “No religious prayers will be permitted in the mall.”
However, this did not deter a few people from launching a protest of sorts by attempting to recite Sundarkand on the mall premises on Friday. ADCP South, Lucknow, Rajesh Srivastavatold the Hindustan Times, “Three people were detained from the entry gate of Lulu Mall in Lucknow for allegedly attempting to recite Sundarkand inside the mall premises. Three people of the Hindu Samaj Party were detained at the mall’s gate. Currently, there’s a peaceful situation.”