Shah Ghouse, which used to be crowded with customers any time of the day, be it the ‘Take away’ section or the tables, has been wearing a deserted look for the past few days – all it took was a malicious WhatsApp rumour to bring the business down and nearly destroy it.
“Last year, during Christmas, the sale was booming, there was hardly any space for people to sit. Now I am not even expecting less than average number of customers. Even demonetisation did not have much effect on the sale. But just who knew a Whatsapp message could ruin my business like this,” laments Mohammed Rabbani, owner of Shah Ghouse.
On December 8, a fake Whatsapp message - which said, “Today morning at 11:45 am the Cyberabad police arrested hotel Shahgouse owner that they adding dog peace’s” (sic) – went viral, along with two seemingly unrelated by nauseating images of dog meat.
The message further claimed that city municipality’s officials visited the restaurant and collected food samples to conduct tests.
All of it was patently false.
The person who set this rumour off has since been identified as 22-year-old V Chandra Mohan, an MBA student from Rikab Gunj of Madina.
“V Chandra Mohan had received a generic message on a Whatsapp group in Telugu about mixing of dog meat in mutton and serving people at the restaurants, along with the three pictures of dog slaughtering and dog meat. Mohan changed the message and posted in his school friends’ group stating that dog’s meat was found in Shah Ghouse restaurant on December 8 just for fun,” says Cyber Crime ACP S Jayaram.
And it wasn’t just on WhatsApp where the rumour took off, even media houses ran the ‘story’.
“But the next day many media houses started running the story in the channels. He was not arrested and the messages were fake. But on December 13, GHMC officials took samples to verify the news shown by the media,” Jayaram.
“Several media houses ran the story without checking the facts, due to which the business drastically came down. I had no choice, so I filed a complaint against people spreading the message,” he adds.
Rabbani says that due to this, along with his business, the staff who have been working there for several years have lost their livelihood.
“We recruited more than 500 workers for all the branches across the city. But now I hardly need 100 workers as hardly any customers are coming here,” Rabbani says.
Rabbani started Shah Ghouse in 1989, and before that he used to run a family-owned mutton shop. His dream to open a restaurant of his own finally came true after he managed to save money for years and opened his first restaurant in Old City.
He still remembers the rush during those days, he says. “It took me years to get this goodwill. I worked day and night for this,” he recalls with pain.
“This restaurant is not just my work, it is a dream which I have been living. For the past few days, I can actually count the number of customers who came in on my fingers. I have been really disturbed by this,” he says helplessly.