A group of men was booked with an FIR on July 15 after a video of them praying inside a mall went viral. The group was allegedly praying without authorization.
The incident happened in Lulu Mall, a recently opened shopping mall in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh.
According to the Uttar Pradesh police, the group was charged with multiple charges, including “promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion." The group was also charged with "malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings" for carrying out their Muslim prayer in the mall.
The following week, four individuals who were allegedly part of the group were arrested.
The FIR was filed when a video of the group praying inside the mall went viral on Thursday. A Twitter post alleged that since most of the mall's employees are Muslims, they were allowed to pray there. The tweet added, "offering Namaz in public places is like defying the government."
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
After the video went viral, members of the Akhil Bhartiya Hindu Mahasabha, a local Hindutva group in Lucknow, began protesting outside the mall.
Sishir Chaturvedi, the national spokesman for the group, accused the mall management of allowing Muslims to pray inside the mall. "The mall authorities should also allow Hindus and people from other communities to offer prayers," Chaturvedi said.
But the mall management pushed back Chaturvedi's request. The group eventually complained against the group of Muslims who prayed inside the mall.
According to the complaint, "namaz was offered inside the mall, which is against the state government's decision of not allowing namaz in public places." "By doing so, they are practicing love jihad," the complaint added.
Speaking to The Wire, Chaturvedi also accused Lulu Group of making money in India and sending it to Dubai. "Despite this, people offered namaz in the mall, so the administration should take strict action to stop religious activities in public places," he added.
The Lulu Group is based in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and is owned by Yusuff Ali Musaliam Veettil Abdul Kader, a billionaire from Kerala, India.
Sameer Verma, the mall's general manager, dismissed Chaturvedi's allegations. "Our aim is to make Lulu Mall Lucknow an international shopping destination," he explained.
The mall also explained that the group seen praying in the video are not mall employees.
On July 17, Jaykumar Gangadhar, the regional director of Lulu India and the proprietor of Lulu Mall, issued a statement denying allegations of love jihad and the allegations about the mall staff.
"Lulu Mall is completely a business establishment, which conducts business without caste and class," Gangadhar said in the statement. "It is very unfortunate that some people, for their own selfish interests, are trying to target our institution," he added.
He also explained that the claims about the mall's staff are false. Gangadhar explained that "over 80% are Hindu, the rest are Muslims, Christians, and others." "Our employees are here not in the name of caste and religion but on the basis of work efficiency and merit," he added.
Responding to certain claims by right wing that 70% staff in LuLu mall are Muslim, regional director of the mall in release said there is no discrimination based on any grounds. He claimed more than 80% of the staff are Hindu while and remaining from other religions. pic.twitter.com/EvlOoPWEit
— Piyush Rai (@Benarasiyaa) July 17, 2022