When a mob of ‘gau rakshaks’ laid siege to a Jaipur hotel over beef rumours
It was nearing midnight on Sunday, but the wary expressions of a large number of police personnel deployed near a hotel in Kanti Nagar area of Jaipur suggested they had much work to do.
For over six hours, the Pink City saw a mob of more than 100 people — many of whom claimed to be self-styled gau rakshaks (cow protectors) — protest in front of hotel Hayat Rabbani over allegations that it serves beef.
Fiery chants of ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘Narendra Modi Zindabad’ rang out even as visibly bemused boarders exited the hotel one by one.
With a business-like expression on her face, local councillor Nirmala Sharma of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looked on and instructed officials of the Jaipur Municipal Corporation to seal the hotel building.
Sukhdip Singh, one of the protesters, said, “In the afternoon, people from the locality saw the hotel staff dumping garbage near a place where a few stray cows were standing. Some of the waste looked like leftover pieces of beef and it made them suspicious.”
Like many of the people protesting, Singh was not a resident of the locality and identified himself as “from Rajasthan University”. He conceded he had not seen the leftover meat, but heard about it from “an acquaintance”.
Many other slogan-chanting protesters could not say how they knew for sure that the hotel had beef on its menu. Killing of cows, bulls and bullocks as well as possession and transportation of their flesh is banned in Rajasthan where the BJP government has set up a cow department for the welfare of the animal which is considered sacred by many Hindus.
'Isn't the name of the hotel proof enough?'
“What kind of question are you asking? Don’t you understand what meat a hotel named Rabbani could serve? Isn’t name of the hotel proof enough that it serves beef?” said Karamveer, one of the protesters outside the hotel which is near the city’s bus stand popularly known as Sindhi camp. Karamveer too was not from the locality.
At a park a few hundred metres away from the hotel, Sadhvi Kamal ‘Didi’, the national president of Mahila Gauraksha Dal addressed a gathering of protesters as they discussed their course of action. All this while, an SUV in which the Sadhvi travels with two assistants was parked outside the gate with a sticker of Gau Raksha Dal pasted on the windscreen.
“I am not afraid to sacrifice my life for gau mata. I am ready to be with you in any protest or gheraos to teach the people of this hotel a lesson. But the residents of this colony will also have to participate and they shouldn’t back out at the end moment,” said the Sadhvi, before asking those in the gathering from Kanti Nagar to raise their hands.
Only a handful did, while more than 90% chorused they were from outside the locality.
A youth interjected with an unmistakable hint of pride in his voice, “Don’t worry about the numbers as it will just take me a couple of phone calls to assemble 200 people from somewhere else. After all, it was me and my friends who slapped Sanjay Leela Bhansali on the sets of Padmavati.”
Jaipur Police to conduct ‘FSL’ test of meat sample
Deputy commissioner of police (west) Ashok Gupta told HT, “We have collected the meat sample from the hotel and it will be sent to the forensic science laboratory (FSL) for testing.”
Councillor Sharma, however, insisted they were certain the hotel served beef. “As soon as I learnt that beef is served in the hotel, we arrived at the spot and sealed it after asking all the boarders to leave the building.”
Assistant commissioner of police (Sadar) Neeraj Pathak told HT police also arrested two people from the hotel after receiving the allegations.
“Two people, the manager of the hotel and the man who was dumping the garbage, have been booked under section 151 CRPC (Arrest to prevent the commission of cognizable offences) and investigation is on in the matter,” said Pathak.
Activists and ‘victims’ tell a different story
“The hotel is owned by my brother-in-law and on Sunday I had come there on some errand when the police took me along with them amid allegations of beef selling by the hotel. I have absolutely no idea about the matter but the police wouldn’t believe me,” said Abdul Rehman, who was briefly detained by the police.
The police released Rehman on the insistence of human rights activists, who kept reasoning with officials at the Sindhi Camp police station.
Activists condemned the incident and expressed concern over the way the mob laid siege to the hotel. “If a mere hoax call can result in such a huge mobilisation of a mob, it is indeed a matter of concern. At a time when we are witnessing growing saffronisation in the state and country along with the rise of fringe elements, there is a need for us to collectively stand against such misinformation and attempt to incite communalism,” said Kavita Srivastava of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
Shrivastava added she received a call from the family of the hotel owner.
Muslim religious organisations also spoke strongly against the siege. “The way a small matter over dumping garbage has been blown out of proportion by some people to give communal colour to this incident is extremely unfortunate. The allegations that the hotel was serving beef are untrue, and are attempts to disrupt the peace in the area,” said Muhammad Nazimuddin, Rajasthan general secretary of Jaamat-e-Islami Hind.
Not the first instance of beef-related trouble in Rajasthan
This is not the first beef-related case in Rajasthan. On May 30, 2015, Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi, 60, was lynched at Birloka village in Nagaur district following rumours that Muslims had killed more than 200 cows for a feast. Pictures of carcasses started circulating on social media. Young men in thousands gathered in the fields of Kumhari village where the carcasses were lying. Incidentally, a municipality contractor had rented the field to dispose of cattle carcass as a routine exercise. Tension, however, spread and Qureshi was beaten with iron rods and killed in the market place, despite some of his Hindu neighbours trying to help him.