IN AN unusual step, the management of Lulu Mall in Lucknow, which is part of the UAE-based Lulu Group with operations in 20 countries and annual revenue of $8 billion, released a statement stating that ” over 80%” of its staff is Hindu. This is in response to a social media campaign against the mall after a a video of a group of unidentified people offering namaz in the premises of the mall has made the rounds.
UP police have not located those seen offering namaz in the video that surfaced six days ago.
In response to allegations that the mall was fostering a community, management issued a statement: “It is very unfortunate that some people, for their own selfish interests, are trying to target our institution. Among our employees are local residents and people from UP and across the country. Among them, more than 80% are Hindus, the rest are Muslims, Christians and others. No one in our organization is allowed to conduct any religious activity. The mall administration filed an FIR against those who attempted to offer prayers and namaz in a public place.
The statement released in Hindi by Jaykumar Gangadhar, Regional Manager, Lulu India Shopping Mall Pvt Ltd, also said that “Lulu Mall is completely a commercial establishment, conducting its business without caste or class.”
“The consumer is most important to us. Our establishment operates within the limits prescribed by government rules. Our employees are here not in the name of caste and religion, but on the basis of efficiency and merit of work,” he said, ending with a call for “all not to target our esteemed establishment for vested interests” and “enable us to conduct business with the benefit of our client in mind”.
The statement was released after the video clip was followed by a social media campaign alleging the mall had primarily employed members of the out-of-state Muslim community.
Speaking to The Indian Express, UP Minister of Infrastructure and Industrial Development, Nanda Gopal Gupta “Nandi”, said the incident at Lulu Mall was the work of “anti-social elements who are “troubled by the government’s continued success in attracting investment”. vis-à-vis the State”.
He said he wanted to assure investors that their “interests” would be protected and preserved in the state and that such matters would be exposed.
“At a time when we are planning the Global Investor Summit in January next year and have had successful investments over the past five years, anti-social elements are trying to disrupt law and order. Soon those who conspired would also be exposed,” Nandi said.
“I assure investors that preserving and securing their interests and investments is the government’s first priority. We had seen similar things happen during the inauguration ceremony as well as before that an incident had occurred to disturb law and order. There are attempts to slander the image every time we take a step forward, but we assure investors that strict measures will be taken and their interests will be protected here,” he said.
Nandi alleged that such incidents are the result of “unease among notorious elements who ran the government under PS rule in the state and dictated conditions to the police and administrative officers. But that was stopped by the current government and they are the ones who are most troubled.
Alok Shukla, Director, CII, Uttar Pradesh, said, “This is the first time such an incident has occurred, whether in retail or manufacturing. For the industry, everyone is welcome based on their professional profile and abilities. We hope this is only temporary and that few people have heeded these discussions given the response the mall is receiving. Even the administration of the Lullu shopping center is vigilant.
Akash Goenka, Director of Shubham Goldee Masala Ltd and Vice President of CII, Uttar Pradesh, said: “The government is undertaking initiatives through which international brands come to UP and consumer businesses like ours are featured. However, incidents like these are shocking. Incidents based on religious things are by no means welcome. When industrialization arrives, it does not see religion, it is for everyone.
He said, “It’s (the mall), it’s something new. See the type of demographics of people who come to visit. It has become a tourist destination, people from nearby areas like Barabanki, Unnao, Rae Bareli come to visit it as a tourist destination. We just hope that such things will not happen and that we will have more and more such brands in the future.
Following Lulu’s statement, India’s former ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Suri took to Twitter, saying it was “tragic” that the group had to disclose the religion of its staff.
“The Lulu Group founded by MA Yusuff Ali in the United Arab Emirates has invested well over Rs 10,000 cr in India. They source over Rs 3,000 crore of fresh produce from India for their hypermarkets, creating thousands of jobs. And they have to disclose the religious identity of their staff? Tragic!” he tweeted.
Speaking to the Indian Express later, Suri said, “I hope the legal agencies will get to the bottom of this. Obviously, some disbelievers have deliberately tried to create harm, and I consider this a deliberate act. The unfortunate reaction of the groups following this aggravates the situation and is a drag. »
Suri, who is currently a member of ORF, said “the government’s effort will be to restore investor confidence.”
“The Lulu Group has invested more than Rs 2,000 crore in such a project…These incidents have an impact on the perception of India at a popular level although our ties with Arab countries are very strong and they tend to be resilient and governed by national interests. But India’s image in the eyes of the common man is taking a hit,” he said.
The Lulu Mall in Lucknow was inaugurated by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on July 10 and opened to the public a day later.
On July 14, a case was filed at Sushant Golf City Police Station in Lucknow following a complaint from mall public relations officer Sibtain Hussain over the namaz video after the clip went viral on social media.
The case was filed under ICC Sections 153-A(1) (promoting enmity between groups), 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 341 (unlawful acts withheld), and 505 (statements leading to public mischief).
Two days later, police arrested four people for allegedly trying to enter the mall to recite Hanuman Chalisa in response to the video. They were sentenced for breach of the peace. Police have also booked a total of 27 people on similar charges for allegedly staging protests over the video.
The Lucknow mall is part of the Rs 13,000 crore India expansion plans announced by the Lulu Group in 2018 under Lulu India Shopping Mall Pvt Ltd – and is the fifth to be built by the group after the Kochi malls , Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur.
(With ENS & ENS Economic Bureau/Delhi)