New Delhi: A Kashmiri Muslim student has alleged that an OYO Room in North Delhi, which he had booked for his father and sister, stopped him from checking in because of his identity.
Nauman Rafiq, a student at Delhi University’s Law Faculty, had booked a double occupancy room at OYO 49019 Aasha Residency in Vijay Nagar for 15-17 February.
Rafiq told ThePrint that when he arrived to check in Saturday morning, the hotel staff asked him where his ID was from, and allegedly outrightly denied him the room after he said it was from Jammu and Kashmir.
“Before even looking at my ID, they asked me where it was from, so I said Jammu and Kashmir. Then they told me ‘we don’t allow people from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and J&K in our hotel’ and that the J&K ID was not valid. They said they had orders and that it was OYO’s policy, too,” he alleged.
Rafiq added that when he pressed the hotel staff to show him written proof of the policy, they claimed it was in the OYO app and allegedly refused to entertain any further questions.
“It’s very humiliating. When I called the OYO helpline, I was told the policy is that nationals from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan are barred from checking into the hotel,” he said. “They apologised for the inconvenience and offered to shift my booking to another hotel.”
This, however, isn’t the first such incident involving Kashmiris. In August last year, several reports claimed OYO Rooms was denying Kashmiris a place to stay citing “government orders”.
Hotel blames Delhi Police ‘verbal orders’, cops deny claim
The hotel’s manager, Rahul Gautam, admitted they were turning away customers from Jammu and Kashmir but blamed it on the “verbal orders” of the Delhi Police.
“Our hotel is near a police ground, and they come by to conduct checks often,” Gautam said. “During one such check, a beat police officer verbally told us that while the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests are going on and the Shaheen Bagh issue remains, we should not allow customers from Kashmir and Ladakh.”
He claimed that he and his staff members informed OYO but that the portal didn’t update the hotel’s new requirements due to “technical issues”. The hotel’s receptionist, B.S. Rana, said the policy has been in effect since around 21 January.
“We don’t have anything against any Kashmiris, but we were just complying with police orders,” Gautam said.
The Delhi Police, however, has denied having issued orders of this kind.
“We have not instructed any hotel to turn away Indian customers due to CAA protests or for any other reason,” said Karan Singh Rana, the Station House Officer of Mukherji Nagar, the nearest police station to the hotel. “The only requirement is a valid ID proof, for which the original has to be furnished.”
Rana also claimed the room was denied to Rafiq because he did not furnish the original ID proof, but the Kashmiri student denies this.
“This is a blatant lie. They did not even ask for the ID proof, they just asked where it was from and denied it on that basis,” Rafiq said.
‘Against OYO ethos’
OYO, the hospitality chain, says it has now initiated an inquiry into the incident.
“We have initiated an inquiry into the asset partner’s unilateral actions that resulted in the inconvenience caused to the customer. As immediate steps, we have temporarily suspended operations with the asset partner,” an OYO spokesperson told ThePrint through an official statement.
The statement added that “any such action that tantamounts to discrimination is a serious violation of the basic principals of OYO’s ethos of doing business”.
Aasha Residency’s page, hosted on OYO’s website, however, still features discriminatory rules such as “Only Indian Nationals allowed” and “No unmarried couples allowed”.
Rafiq says he will now file a legal notice against the hotel for discrimination.
‘Policy’ against Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, and Afghanistanis
While the official statement by OYO says it is “committed to bringing quality living experiences to all our guests from around the world, irrespective of their religion, race, caste and gender,” at least four helpline representatives ThePrint spoke to said OYO had a policy at certain hotels that barred citizens from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan from staying at their premises.
“It’s not applicable for all hotels. As OYO and the properties discuss, they decide the terms of policy together,” said a senior helpline representative.
Some have put this specification on their pages in the OYO website.