The Himalaya Mall, among the five biggest malls in Ahmedabad, on the Eid Day on August 9, 2013 announced a fee of Rs 20 from visitors from the minority community, to be returned to them only if they bought anything from the mall, and retained if they didn’t.
Many felt it was discrimination against a specific group on Eid when footfalls at the mall peaked.
“The security personnel were being selective. We saw people walking past without paying any fee. When we asked the security guards, they said that they have orders to follow and asked us to pay up. We’re shocked,” said Saiyad Shaikh, a resident of Delhi Chakla, who had come to the mall with his family.
Iliyas Ansari, who stays in Shahpur, said, “We’re willing to pay entry fee provided the mall charges it from everybody. Why discriminate against just one community?”
The manager (operations) of Himalaya Mall, said that it was a routine move to check visitors on a busy day. “We had employed the same mechanism in the past to keep troublemakers out. We are planning to charge entry fee during the coming festive season including Diwali. The fee is being returned if any purchase is made, so the entry is practically free,” she said.
Mall officials said that against a routine daily footfall of around 10,000, Eid Day saw a surge in the numbers to around 30,000. About the selective demand of entry fee, she said the administration had decided to exclude women and senior citizens only. “There was no attempt to exclude anybody or charge specific persons. And, Rs 20 is hardly a deterrent,” she said.
However, a distinct pattern could be observed on the Eid Day in which entry was allowed. Youth from specific age groups of the minority community were being scrutinized and asked to pay the fee while whereas women and many others were allowed to walk in without being charged.
Mall officials said last year during Eid they saw two group clashes inside the mall and a glass wall was broken. On Friday, the number of security personnel was increased and a team of policemen was deployed inside as well as outside the mall as authorities did not want any “trouble”.
Any discrimination on the basis of religion is unconstitutional and should not be tolerated. Such communal profiling shows that a deep divide persists in Gujarat, notwithstanding chief minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Sadbhavana’ mission.