On Sunday in Jaipur, 514 km to the west of Lucknow, police began looking for the owner of Hotel Hayat Rabbani at Polo Victory area of the Rajasthan capital. While the hotel has been picking up awards for excellent hospitality and service and business has been looking up, police and the Jaipur Municipal Corporation got the hotel vacated of guests and then sealed it.
The shocked Muslim community of Jaipur wondered if this was the ‘Yogi effect’ hours after Adityanath Yogi was sworn as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
It was around 6 pm on March 19 when a hotel employee Qasim reportedly went to dump garbage bags in the dustbin at a vacant plot on Kanti Chandra Road. All hotels in the neighbourhood, as well as residents of the locality, dumped their garbage there. And the place is always frequented by stray and hungry cattle foraging for food. As usual the garbage bags from the hotel had leftover food including bones of chicken and mutton.
But to Qasim’s misfortune (or could it have been planned in advance?), he says one Kamal Didi (she apparently signs her name also as Kamal Didi) of the Rashtriya Mahila Gau Rakshak Sewa Mandal and some of her followers were also hovering around, ostensibly in a bid to catch the stray cattle with the help of municipal workers and take them to Gau Shalas.
According to Qasim, seeing him dump the garbage bags, Kamal Didi pounced on him and began beating him, alleging that he was trying to pollute the cows with left-over beef. He says she and her followers then dragged him to the hotel and very soon a mob joined them, all baying for the owner Naeem Rabbani to come out. The police were called and were reportedly told that beef was being cooked and served in the hotel.
The police and the media, as usual, arrived together. The Gau Rakshaks were also seen moving with the media. When they did not find the hotel owner, they picked up Wasim, the receptionist and the cleaner, booked them under Section 151 CrPC and arrested them.
At the hotel they claimed to have found brochures on the activities of the SIO (the Jamaat Student wing), writings of Maulana Wahiduddin and the “Communal Harmony campaign” literature of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.
The police thereafter reached the Jamaat office looking for Naeem Rabbani. When they learnt that he was not there, they went to his house and following the script immortalised by filmstar Ajeet and others in Hindi films which promoted the dialogue“Uski Ma, Behen ko Utha Lao" (Which is now the Standard Operating Procedure of the Police), they picked up his brother-in-law Abdul Rehman, who had nothing to do with the hotel. Which is when people got in touch with me.
I rushed to the Sindhi Camp police station. At our intervention, the police let the brother-in-law leave with us. It was on our way out that we learnt that they had picked up two others as well. After seeing off Abdul Rehman safely to his relatives, we went back to the police station to meet the other two and get them released. But the police told us that they had been booked and arrested. They would be produced in front of a magistrate and restrained.
What is interesting is that the protest over the mere allegation that beef was being cooked, resulted in police taking the meat samples and also the Jaipur Municipal Corporation sealing the hotel. They got all the guests to leave and sealed the hotel. What is sad is that Hayat Rabbani has been getting awards regularly from the hoteliers association for good service. Now the hotel is closed. Rabbani is being asked to show up on Monday morning and will also be restrained under sec 151, Cr PC.
The Muslim community leadership is in a state of shock as to how could the police come under pressure and book Rabbani and pick up his staff over just an allegation of beef being cooked and served when it was all false. They are very upset. The electronic media has kind of declared that the meat samples were of suspicious nature and did not seem to be mutton or chicken.
So even before Yogi Adityanath takes over as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, the rest of their lot are so emboldened that they take no time in declaring a Muslim who runs a hotel as committing blasphemy. Some were also alleging that this was done by the next-door hotelier, who was threatened by their booming business. The ward councillor Nirmala Sharma was also reportedly present, directing the JMC staff to seal the hotel. While this was being done, the crowds were shouting ‘Jai Shri Ram’. In fact, ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and other slogans were constantly being raised in the drama which lasted four and a half hours, from 6 pm to 10.30 pm on Sunday.
Indignant members of the Muslim community kept pointing out that all over Jaipur people throw garbage at vacant plots as there are no garbage bins and a system of collecting and disposing them. “Why single us out?” they wailed. When I put the question to a senior police official, he replied that police only acted when someone complained to them.
This is not the first beef-related case in Rajasthan. On May 30 2015 in village Birloka, Khimsar Tehsil of Nagaur district, 60-year-old Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi was lynched by a mob following a rumour that Muslims had killed more than 200 cows for a feast and pictures of the carcasses started circulating on social media. Young men in thousands gathered in the fields of Kumhari village where the carcasses were lying as the municipality contractor had rented the field to dispose of cattle carcass, as a routine municipal exercise.
Hate speeches and protests followed everywhere and before one knew it, Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi, who had nothing to do with the incident, was beaten with iron rods and killed in the marketplace, despite some of his Hindu neighbours trying to help him.
Kavita Srivastava is President, People’s Union For Civil Liberties, Rajasthan.
This article was updated on March 22 at 4 pm to reflect the correct spelling of the name of the hotel, which was inadvertantly spelled as Hyatt. The error is regretted.