Two more individuals involved in the “unauthorised” offering of namaz at the newly inaugurated Lulu Mall have been arrested by Lucknow Police on Sunday. The latest arrests take the total number of arrests to seven. All accused are now in police custody, cops said.
The fresh arrests came days after the police nabbed a fifth accused in the case. “Irfan Ahmed and Saud, residents of Sadatganj area in Lucknow, were arrested. The accused were among the people who offered religious prayers in the mall premises without permission,” said Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (South) Rajesh Kumar Srivastav.
Notably, none of the arrested individuals was a staff member at Lulu Mall, which was inaugurated recently by UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The arrests came after CM Yogi Adityanath directed the administration to take strict action against elements who are trying to incite communal violence in the state with unacceptable acts.
A video of people offering namaz at Lulu Mall surfaced on social media on July 13. The incident kicked up a row after a right-wing Hindu outfit objected to the namaz being offered in the mall premises and sought permission to recite the Hanuman Chalisa there.
Members of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha subsequently staged a sit-in at the gates of Lulu Mall on July 14. Shishir Chaturvedi, national spokesperson of the Mahasabha, had alleged that people belonging to a particular community were being allowed to offer prayers inside the mall.
“The mall authorities should also allow Hindus and other religions to offer prayers inside the mall,” he said.
In response, Sameer Verma, general manager of the Lulu mall in Lucknow, issued a video statement after the controversy. “Lulu Mall respects all religions. Any kind of religious work or prayer is not permitted here. We train our floor staff and security staff to keep an eye on such activities,” he said.
On July 15, two people were arrested by police and at least 15 detained for creating a ruckus when they tried to enter the mall premises without permission. The local police have beefed up security near the mall in Shaheed Path area following the incident.