The manager of a Jaipur hotel that was laid siege to by cow vigilantes over rumours of serving beef on Sunday night has alleged that after taking him into custody, police brought him back among the protesters “to calm them down” and he was slapped around and manhandled in police presence.
The owner of Hotel Hayat Rabbani, Naeem Rabbani, who held a press conference with his staff here on Monday, said “a repeat of Dadri had been averted”. Police, which reached the hotel in Sindhi Camp a few minutes after the crowd surrounded it, has said that the meat they seized appeared to be “chicken legs”, and it had been sent for testing to the forensic lab to placate tempers. However, hours after the incident, Jaipur Mayor Ashok Lahoty shared a message on a BJP media cell WhatsApp group saying the hotel had been sealed for “feeding beef to cows”.
At the press conference, Rabbani said that on Sundays, they prepare special chicken for their nine staff members, and it was this that the crowd had mistaken for beef. He said they never serve beef.
Kamal ‘Didi’, the national president of the ‘Rashtriya Mahila Gau Raksha Dal’, said that around 150 of them had gathered at the hotel after hearing rumours of a “beef party”. “I got a call Sunday evening of stray cows in the area, and reached there with my volunteers to send them to the government-run Hingonia cow rehabilitation centre. However, we spotted two youths throwing some garbage, which looked like beef, near the hotel,” she said. “So we caught them. Locals had also been complaining of a weekly ‘beef party’ on Sundays to us, so we suspected it to be beef.”
Qasim, 19, a native of Bihar, who works as a cleaner at the hotel, was among the two grabbed by Kamal ‘Didi’. “There is a garbage depot near the hotel and we were throwing the remains of chicken meat when some youths approached us and accused us of throwing beef. The lady in yellow (Kamal ‘Didi’) then thrashed me and they took us to the hotel,” Qasim told The Indian Express.
Waseem Ahmed, 30, who works as a manager and receptionist at the hotel, said, “The crowd of about three dozen then reached the hotel along with some four policemen and started chanting ‘Narendra Modi Zindabad’, ‘Hayat Rabbani Muradabad’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’.”
Yunus Khan, 32, employed in the travel section of the hotel, who was present at the time, said, “They barged in and attacked Waseem though police tried to intervene. They were demanding that the owner of the hotel be brought before them.” Abdul Lateef, 70, who is related to the owners of the hotel and runs another eatery nearby, said, “The crowd kept yelling gau-mans (cow-meat) was being consumed at the hotel, and this attracted more and more persons.”
Officials of the Sindhi Camp police station then brought Qasim and Ahmed to the police station. “We picked them up under Section 151 of the CrPC (arrest to prevent commission of cognizable offences),” Sindhi Camp SHO Manphool Singh said, adding that “prima facie it (the sample seized) was chicken remains”.
An unnamed FIR was also lodged at the police station under IPC Section 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class). Later, as the crowd continued to surround the hotel, Ahmed was taken back. “There was no senior management present and since I sport a beard too, they took me to the hotel,” Ahmed says. “There, I was beaten up again by Kamal ‘Didi’ and her supporters in presence of police.”
The SHO says they took Ahmed there to get the hotel “vacated”. Rabbani told The Indian Express, “I was away in Sikar when I got to know about the incident. The entire hotel was vacated by police and sealed. All our 28 rooms were sealed. It was around 11 pm, but without letting us take any money from the guests, they made them leave the hotel… It was similar to Dadri. Kya hota agar main wahan hota (What would have happened had I been there)? You saw how angry the mob was? And how police took Waseem back to the hotel and the people attacked him?” Naeem said.
While DCP, West, Ashok Kumar Gupta had said on Sunday Rabbani had been arrested, this later proved to be wrong. Qasim and Ahmed were released on bail Monday afternoon. Rabbani’s nephew Mohammad Irshad, 27, said protesters, including local corporator Nirmala Sharma, kept demanding that he too come to the hotel though he had already reached the police station.
Sharma said they wanted to talk to the management. “For several hours, the people at the hotel did not tell us who the owners were. We just wanted them to realise what they had done,” she said. Mayor Lahoty admitted he had sent the WhatsApp message saying it was beef. “Hotel Hayat dwara gaumata ko beef khilane k dus-sahas karne par… hotel ko seize kiya gaya hai (Hotel Hayat has been seized for daring to feed beef to cows),” the message said. “I received the message so I forwarded it,” he told The Indian Express.
Defending the sealing of the hotel, Lahoty added, “The owners do not have permission to run a hotel, they do not have permission to run a restaurant, and third, waste has to be segregated in three categories and disposed of properly. But the hotel threw it openly. There was immense anger among locals at the way waste was being disposed of.” A delegation of Muslim organisations met Jaipur Commissioner Sanjay Agarwal on Monday. “I have asked them to give us a formal complaint. Based on that, we will take action,” Agarwal said.