All's in a name, if it's Hitler's Cross - Jews frown on restaurant 'gimmick'

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By SATISH NANDGAONKAR
  • Published 24.08.06
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Playing with Hitler is like playing with fire, and the owners of Hitler’s Cross should have known it.

The multi-cuisine restaurant-cum-coffee bar that last week threw its doors open in Kharghar in Navi Mumbai is in the centre of a controversy with the small Jewish population furious because it was promoted with posters of Hitler and Nazi swastikas.

No, Nuremburg noodles or Auschwitz soup or Mauser pizzas are not on the menu here or anything that could offend your sensibilities. But the Israeli mission in India today asked Mumbai authorities to change the restaurant’s name.

“We hope Indian authorities will ensure that Hitler being such a mass murderer does not get any rehabilitation,” Israel’s consul general in Mumbai, Daniel Zohar Zonshine, told Reuters.

“There is a limit to gimmick. In India, we believe, if something like this hurts the sentiments of a community, it can be treated as a criminal offence.”

Those who run the 1,000 sq ft restaurant have removed a poster of Hitler and the swastika pasted in the restaurant following the outrage from the Jews. But they are refusing to bend further and change its name.

“I have no sympathy for Adolf Hitler. The name was just chosen because it seemed so radically different from any other restaurant name. I don’t understand why no one has raised objections to at least a dozen such brand names,” 26-year-old managing director Punit Sabhlok said.

Furiously rattling off the names of kid’s fashion labels, liquor brands and tobacco products bearing Hitler’s name, Sabhlok said similar standards would have to be applied to everybody.

“I don’t wish to change the name of my restaurant, but if they insist, I would want them to change the names of all these other brands as well. Why only me?”

Shakeer Siddiqui, a managing partner of Hitler’s Cross which serves pizzas, salads, coffee, Indian grub and hookahs in the Indian-styled seating section, felt likewise.

“Hitler is just a German surname. I can understand if somebody’s sentiments are hurt if we say Adolf Hitler’s Cross or have a name which glorifies Hitler in any way. The swastika is also a holy Indian symbol.”

If nothing else, the sound and fury have generated good business at Hitler’s Cross. Today, hundreds poured into the restaurant, most of them students from nearby educational institutions.

“Hitler is history. I don’t find it offensive at all. This is just a nice place to hang around with friends,” said Pragya Mishra, a third-year student of the National Institute of Fashion Technology.

Pragya decided to visit the place after the controversy broke in the media. A friend of hers said: “I am a businessman and frankly I would not mind running a restaurant with this name. It makes business sense to have a different sounding name.”

A second-year student, Pankaj, from the Institute of Technology and Management, said: “This is the only decent, air-conditioned place to spend time with friends. There is a Cafe Coffee Day outlet and a McDonald’s, but it is in Vashi, a 30-minute drive away. So we are happy to find at least one place where we can chill. What’s in a name anyway?”

Navi Mumbai police commissioner Ramrao Wagh appeared to agree. Asked if an offensive name could be a legal violation, he said: “No, it’s not an offence. We cannot take action. But if someone complains to us, and if it becomes a law and order issue, we may look into it.”