Photographs of iftar being served post namaz at an HDFC branch in Uttar Pradesh’s Barabanki were widely shared on Facebook with a communal spin. The incident took place during the month of Ramzan around April 24, 2022, within the bank premises.
The viral images were shared with the caption: “These photographs aren’t from a mosque but taken at a bank. It is from an HDFC bank branch in Barabanki. Roza, iftar and namaz are being offered here on a regular basis. This has been happening for years now. This false pretence of “secularism” must be strongly opposed.”
Pro-BJP propaganda outlet OpIndia reported the event while stating that “only Muslim customers” were invited to the iftar. It also claimed that SP leader Osama Ansari graced the occasion with his presence. The event upset members of the Hindu nationalist organisation Bajrang Dal. Sunil Singh, the organisation’s convener for the Awadh province, is quoted in the OpIndia article, as stating, “Today they offered prayers in a bank. Tomorrow they will read namaz somewhere else. The administration should take action against them.”
Alt News performed a keyword search in Hindi and came across several reports describing the event as a great example of “Hindu-Muslim” unity.
We also found a detailed video report covering the event on YouTube.
The following excerpts with time-stamps, from the above video report, are essential to understand the bank’s rationale behind organising the iftar party and to establish that Hindu festivals are also celebrated within the bank premises:
At 1:35/6:11, the deputy manager of the bank branch can be heard saying, “All customers regardless of their religion have been invited to the iftar party.” This statement directly disputes the unfounded claim made in the OpIndia article about only Muslim customers being invited to the iftar party.
Further at 1:50/6:11, SP leader Osama Ansari can be heard saying, “This is a grand gesture by HDFC that reinstates some faith in Hindu-Muslim brotherhood at a time when communal tensions in India have peaked. It sends a positive message to society. People from all religions work in this bank and it is heartening to see the kind of effort that has been put into organising this iftar.”
At 2:21/6:11, a reporter is heard asking the SP councillor, “Are Hindu festivals also celebrated in this manner at the bank”? The councillor’s response follows, stating, “Earlier, Holi Milan Samaroh was also held at the bank. Other festivals are also celebrated here. Everyone is invited regardless of their religious identity. I have been associated with the bank for the past 15 years and I have seen all festivals being celebrated here.”
In the same video report, at 3:24/6:11, the bank cluster head can be heard saying, “Organising such gatherings is a good way to connect with our customers. At 3:35/6:11, he says, “All festivals are celebrated with the primary objective to connect with customers. We also celebrate festivals like Hanuman Jayanti, Holi, Diwali…”
At 3:48/6:11, the manager of the bank, Zaheer Abbas, can be heard saying, “HDFC’s objective is to always connect with its customers and to ensure that everyone moves forward together.” At 4:01/6:11, the manager says, “Our philosophy is to stay connected with our customers at all times. This is how our customers feel safe banking with us. The other name for banking is trust.” At 4:42/6:11, the manager further mentions, “Such programs have been conducted at the bank as a matter of practice. This is not a new occurrence, we were only delayed by the pandemic. But connecting with customers is of prime importance. Apart from religious celebrations we also conduct industry meets. Sometimes, we even arrange for get-togethers to sanction loans instantly.”
It is evident from the above excerpts from the video report that the iftar organised by the bank was based on a business decision to connect with customers and implies no affiliation to any community based on religious identity.
In addition to the above, we also found a report by Dainik Bhaskar in which videos and photographs of other religious festivals like Holi and Diwali being celebrated at HDFC, Barabanki, have been shared.
The report states that the iftar party held within the bank premises infuriated members of the Bajrang Dal who demanded an inquiry into the matter. They also threatened to forcefully have the Hanuman Chalisa recited within the bank premises in the absence of stringent measures being taken to investigate the people involved in organising iftar.
According to this report published by Jagran, the Deputy District Magistrate, Nawabganj, Sumit Yadav said, “Information has been received about such a video going viral. An investigation will be done. Action will be taken if any violation of banking rules is found.”
Alt News also got in touch with a senior bank official (administration) in Barabanki who requested anonymity while stating, “I can confirm that other religious celebrations are held in the bank and customers from all faiths are invited to partake.”
To conclude, HDFC Barabanki organised an iftaar party to connect with all customers, regardless of their religious identities. This was given a political as well as communal spin to portray partiality.
Independent journalism that speaks truth to power and is free of corporate and political control is possible only when people contribute towards the same. Please consider donating in support of this endeavour to fight misinformation and disinformation.
To make an instant donation, click on the "Donate Now" button above. For information regarding donation via Bank Transfer/Cheque/DD, click here.