Lucknow Gup: The Curious Case of Lulu Mall
A weekly Diary
The case of the Lulu Mall recently inaugurated in Lucknow, is curious. The mall is constructed at a cost of Rs 2,000, on 2.2 million square feet of land. It promises to provide employment to at least 15,000 people at a time when joblessness is making youngsters restless in Uttar Pradesh (UP).
Lulu in Arabic means pearl and precious. In some African languages lulu means unique. In Europe Lulu is the nickname of women whose formal name is often Louise. In Lucknow the Lulu Mall is looked upon as a cool way to spend family time, in air-conditioned splendour when temperatures often shoot up to 48 degrees during the day.
Shopping outlets similar to the Lulu Mall are planned in Varanasi and Prayagraj, and other projects across the state are expected to cost Rs 2,500 crore. Yet mischief-makers have spearheaded a hate campaign to malign the mall, in total disregard of the benefits the business brings to the state.
The owner of the mall is Padma Shri Yusuf Ali named the most successful Indian businessman in the Arab world by Forbes in 2018. Originally from Kerala, the 66-year-old has been doing business in Abu Dhabi since 1973. Despite being a Muslim, Yusuf Ali is in the good books of both the Prime Minister and the Chief Minister.
Lucknow's Lulu Mall was inaugurated with much fanfare by the Chief Minister July 10. However, soon after the mall opened to the public, rumours began to circulate widely that 80 % of the staff employed at the mall was Muslim. This has been denied by the management. The hate campaign also claims that most men hired by the mall are Muslim while the women are Hindu.
A video of a few men offering namaz in a corner of the mall went viral on social media. In response, Hindutva groups insisted on chanting the Hanuman chalisa inside the premises. The men accused of using the premises to perform the namaz at the mall have been arrested and some of them turned out to be non-Muslim!
This seems like an attempt to create a communal divide in the city, and to disrupt the life of visitors wanting to enjoy the large food court that accommodates 1600 foodies. Inside the mall there are 15 restaurants and 25 brand outlets. An 11-screen PVR superplex will be launched by the end of the year, providing more entertainment to citizens. Equipped with facilities like a multi-level parking where more than 3,000 vehicles can be parked in one go, the mall is seen as a perfect outing for a family.
After days of rumours, the CM who looked happy to inaugurate the mall has issued directives to miscreants to reign in their anti-Muslim enthusiasm for the moment in the name of development. Anarchy will not be tolerated at any cost by the CM who has ordered the district administration to deal strictly with mischief-makers involved in maligning the Lulu Mall.
A Dalit minister and a Brahmin minister in the UP government led by a Thakur Chief Minister are said to be unhappy. Dinesh Khatik, an important Dalit minister is angry at being ignored. In a letter addressed to the Union Home Minister, Khatik has complained that he is unable to function as minister of state. That he was not informed of the recent transfer of bureaucrats in his ministry.
Khatik represents the important constituency of Hastinapur, in west UP near Meerut. Dalits and OBC voters are responsible for BJP's spectacular wins in the polls in UP. In his letter, Khatik blames the bureaucracy for his woes and not his Kurmi Kshatriya minister or the chief minister. He has complained directly to the Union Home Minister who had energetically campaigned for Khatik in the last state assembly elections held earlier this year.
Complaints of corruption and the transfer from Lucknow of his long time officer on special duty has annoyed Jitin Prasad. Prasad is former Congressman, and a Brahmin. Now a member of the ruling party he is minister of the Public Works Department in the UP government. However, political analysts predict that both Khatik and Prasad are expected to remain in the government.
Zubair Gets Bail
All those sympathetic to the imprisonment of Mohammed Zubair for nearly a month rejoiced at the ruling of the Supreme Court to grant the 33-year-old journalist and fact checker interim bail. Zubair is co-founder of Alt News that exposes fake news.
Six cases were slapped against Zubair across UP alleging that he promotes malicious and provocative content under the guise of fact checking. The apex court ruled that there was no justification in keeping Zubair in continued custody, and that dissent is needed in a healthy democracy.
The Supreme Court has transferred the investigation in all the six FIRs filed in UP to the Special Cell of the Delhi Police regarding the same tweets allegedly deemed offensive.
The Special Investigation Team constituted by the Director General of Police, UP is redundant and shall be disbanded, the Court ruled. Zubair is a software engineer and worked for the telecom giant Nokia before he co-founded Alt News with Pratik Sinha in 2017.
Alt News is a non-profit fact checking website. Zubair was arrested in June 2022, by the Delhi police for tweets from 2018. This raised concerns about the state of the freedom of expression in the country. Fellow journalists, human rights activists and the political opposition termed Zubair's arrest as a revenge for the fight that Alt News has put up against the continuous spread of disinformation in the country. Zubair and Sinha have been nominated for the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize by the Peace Research Institute, Oslo, Norway.
The continuous hardships faced by the poorest of poor in the state is a matter of shame.
Bobby Khare is a 40-year-old garbage collector in the Valmiki neighbourhood of Mathura. All his life he has earned a living as a sanitation worker. He has four children to feed and to clothe. His job is to keep the streets clean and to collect the garbage strewn around the city. How was he to know that the photos lying on the garbage pile of the day were that of very important people in the union, and state governments.
Last Saturday he was approached by three men who wanted to know why the photographs of the Prime Minister, and the Chief Minister of UP were in his garbage cart.The illiterate sanitation worker had no clue. He said he had picked up everything that was lying at the garbage collection point as usual. By the afternoon, the civic body officials had seen a video of Khare carrying the photos of the VIPs in his garbage cart. Khare was summoned to the office and given a show-cause notice.
Afraid of losing his job, Khare immediately submitted a "written reply" apologising profusely for what had happened and promising never to repeat the mistake. A mistake that poor, illiterate Khare had probably never intended to make.