"Food is common everywhere in the world."
A Pakistani food festival being held in India has had its signs set on fire by Hindu extremists and been forced to be cancelled.
The Taste of India restaurant in Surat, Gujarat, had organised the ‘Pakistani Food Festival’, which was set to begin on December 12, 2021.
A banner advertising the 10-day event had been placed near the eatery in the Ring Road area of the city, which is famous for its food.
Former Congress councillor for Surat, Aslam Cyclewala, shot a video of the sign and shared it on Facebook a day after the festival began.
The clip soon went viral and generated many hate messages as well as the attention of Bajrang Dal and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP).
Both are right-wing extremist groups who took offence to the use of ‘Pakistani’.
Climbing the building complex where the sign was, they tore it down and burnt it while chanting “Jai Shri Ram” and “Har Har Mahadev”.
The leader of Bajrang Dal in Surat, Deviprasad Dubey, said:
“We got to know about the hoarding from social media following which we took permission from the South Gujarat Convenor Dinesh Navadiya.
“Later, we went to the spot and brought down the hoarding.
“If they want to do business in India, they cannot use the name of Pakistan here.
“We have submitted a written complaint to the police as well.”
A Khatodara Police official confirmed receipt of this but the exact grounds on which it was submitted is currently unknown.
Restaurant owner Sandeep Dawer said:
“No one objects to the use of the word Chinese in food items even as the neighbouring country is creating issues for India at the border
“The food festival had nothing to do with religion, it was only to showcase Pakistani food, which is basically a Mughlai preparation.
“Almost all Pakistani dishes are popular in India and routinely available.
“Ours was an attempt to inform the customers about it.
“If the protesters had just called and told us to remove the headings, we would have done that.”
“There was no need for all this.”
The owner does not appear to have submitted a police complaint but the event has since been cancelled and replaced with a seafood festival.
Dishes referring to areas of Pakistan have also been removed, including Multani Dhingri, Peshawari Dal, Lahori Fish and Karachi Murgh Karahi.
Dawer continued: “We organise different food festivals as per states and country at our restaurant.
“We are not against Pakistan but we are against their political system that is against India.
“Food is common everywhere in the world.
“We have not invited any Pakistani cuisine chef, but our staff had, through online videos, prepared a menu for the food lovers.
“We have cancelled the Pakistani food festival and in its place, switched over to a seafood festival.”
Dubey added: “We also called Dawer, the owner, and asked him why he has organised such a food festival. He apologised.
“We also told him that between December 12 and 22, we would send our volunteers secretly.
“If Pakistani food is served, then he would be responsible for the consequences.”