The controversy generated by the video viral on social media about a group of people seemingly offering Namaz at the Lulu Mall in Lucknow is turning out to be an anti-climax and a conspiracy.
Hindu organisations had taken offence at the video and claimed that if Muslims were allowed to pray in the mall, they too should have the right to observe Hindu rituals there.
A group of them had arrived at the mall demanding that they be allowed to read out a part of the Ramayana. They had also alleged that 80% of the men employed at the mall were Muslims but the women were all Hindus. This was, they alleged part of Love Jihad.
The mall, said to be Asia’s largest, was formally opened on Monday while the controversial video was shared on Wednesday. An FIR was lodged by the mall management and a police investigation was initiated. The mall management refuted all the allegations and shared details of its employees with the police and the militant Hindu organisations to disprove them.
CCTV footage now confirms the suspicion, voiced from the beginning of the controversy, that it was a deliberate mischief to malign the mall and cause enmity and hatred between communities.
CCTV footage shared by the mall shows eight men gaining entry into the mall together. None of them make any effort to look around the mall or visit any showroom. They neither purchased anything nor were interested in taking selfies in the mall.
Seemingly in a hurry, they start looking for a place to sit down and offer Namaz. They first tried the basement, followed by the ground floor and the first floor—where security guards stopped them. Then they proceeded to the second floor, which was relatively less crowded. Six of the men immediately sat down to offer Namaz while the remaining two appear to have got busy recording videos and taking photographs.
Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Rajesh Kumar Shrivastava conceded that the footage made it clear that the men had no clue about how Namaz is offered. He was hopeful that the miscreants would be arrested soon.
While it takes seven to eight minutes to complete the ‘Namaz’, these men in a hurry completed it in less than a minute—in fact in 18 seconds flat. Activist and social worker Tahira Hasan, who had flagged concerns of a conspiracy right at the beginning, says that the men were clearly ignorant that Namaz is always offered while facing the Kaaba, which is roughly the west direction in north India. While all of them face the West, one of them has his face to a different direction.
After offering the hurried Namaz and recording the video, they exited the mall in a hurry and made no attempt to linger and look around the mall.
Late on Saturday evening, DCP (South) and Sushant Golf City Inspector were replaced for their failure to scan the CCTV footage at the beginning of the controversy. The mall management had sought time to scan the footage and shared the incriminating footage with the police.
While Lucknow has been the centre of communal harmony and the Ganga-Jamuni culture, the deliberate mischief to foment communal tension has caused widespread concern.
On Friday another video was shared on social media of a young man offering Namaz on Platform no. 3 at Charbagh Railway Station. This was immediately followed by organisations like Hindu Mahasabha to demand the removal of the 900-years-old Mazaar of Khamman Peer nestling between the railway tracks. Ironically, more Hindus offer prayers at the Mazaar than Muslims.
Social activist Deepak Kabir points out that devout Muslims are hardly likely to devote more attention to making videos than in offering prayers.