Lucknow, Aug 29 (IANS) In Lucknow's upmarket Hazratganj area a group of shopkeepers are invoking the gods to ensure they do not have to vacate shops which they rented out decades ago.
They are holding a 'yagna' (fire liturgy) to seek 'justice' against the Supreme Court order which directs them to vacate their shops.
As many as 57 shopkeepers, along with their family members and employees, started the 'yagna' Monday. The Muslim shopkeepers also organised special prayers to prevent their eviction.
The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, where they have filed a writ petition on 'technical grounds', is expected to give its verdict Tuesday.
The apex court had in October last directed the government to ensure that all properties, owned by the former Raja of an erstwhile princely state of Mahmudabad, 60 km from here, are restored within a week.
When a deadline was issued the shopkeepers hired top lawyers, including the son of India's Law Minister Hansraj Bharadwaj, to take up their case.
And in an obvious bid to mobilise public opinion they are now holding a 'yagna'.
'The yagna will continue till we get justice,' said Sandeep Kohli, who runs a 2,000 sq feet swanky showroom, for which he has been paying a monthly rent of Rs.275 for the past 40 years.
Kohli told IANS: 'We are fighting not only for our own right, but also for the families of our employees who would become jobless if we vacate these shops.'
While the former Raja of Mamudabad, Amir Mohammad Khan, was not available for comment, one of his employees told IANS: 'Raja Saheb won the case against the occupation of his properties after a 32-year long court battle. Isn't it ironical that all these shopkeepers who have made tens of millions of rupees from the Raja's properties are trying to project themselves as paupers?'
An Oxbridge alumnus, Khan has also taught astrophysics at both Oxford and Cambridge. He was also a Congress legislator some time ago.