A year and a half ago I wrote about being weirded out by the name of a dish at a restaurant in an upscale neighborhood in Ahmedabad. I later learned that less than a year before that the government of Gujarat had produced a textbook which had chapters titled “‘Hitler, the Supremo‘ and ‘Internal Achievements of Nazism’,” painting an remarkably uncritical picture of Nazism. Now, this past week, a restaurant in Bombay changed its name from “Hitler’s Cross Cafe” to “The Cross Cafe” only after protests by Bombay’s Jewish community.
I can’t help but see a trend. And the uncomfortable conclusion is that it isn’t India’s Jewish population who should be upset. While the Bombay restaurant owner claims to have only adorned his restaurant with Nazi memorabilia in order to attract attention, anyone who has seen Rakesh Sharma’s film The Final Solution will have no doubt as to why Hitler seems so appealing to India’s right wing.
I’ve had too many conversations with ordinary middle class Indians who seem to find it perfectly acceptable to blame all of India’s problems on the Muslims for the connection not to be apparent. However the connection seems to be lost on most reporters since it is generally assumed that Muslims want to kill all the Jews as well. (I do remember seeing Hitler posters throughout Pakistan when I was there during the first Gulf War.) Still, I believe it is convenient for the press to paint this as a story of having inadvertently hurt the feelings of a tiny minority population, when the real story affects the third-largest Muslim population in the world!