Christian groups force Mumbai restaurant to remove “blasphemous” paintings

MUMBAI: Goregaon Social, a restaurant cum bar in Mumbai suburb has been forced to apologise and remove paintings and other interiors that were deemed “blasphemous” by some Christian groups. The complaints were filed yesterday and the restaurant was forced to oblige within hours and “offensive” interiors were removed the same day.

It all happened after an NGO called Watchdog Foundation found images such as Jesus Christ holding a leather bag and Moses holding a tablet computer highly offensive to Christians, especially Catholics. The NGO demanded arrest of the owner of the restaurant and closing down of the restaurant for this blasphemous act.

NGO’s demands were supported by the Archdiocese of Bombay, which had earlier forced the comedy group AIB to apologise for their jokes. The Archdiocese demanded that the restaurant be “closed with immediate effect, with cancellation of their Trade License, Liquor Permit, Health License, etc.”

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Not only Christian groups, even political parties jumped onto this bandwagon. Student wing of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) asked its supporters to file FIR against the owners of the restaurant. BJP too joined the chorus with Mumbai President calling up police. An online campaign was also launched demanding arrest of the restaurant owner under IPC 295A, which gathered over 8000 signatures within a day.

With pressure rising, police visited the restaurant to take stock of the situation. The owners realized the gravity of the situation and immediately agreed to remove everything that was found blasphemous by the outraged people.

Last night, the Facebook page of the restaurant publicly apologised for the interiors and announced that all such paintings and interiors had been removed. They said sorry for hurting religious sentiments, and claimed that the paintings were intended to be satirical descriptions against consumerism.

The apology has been accepted by the Archdiocese of Bombay, but they added that they didn’t agree with the idea of satire and that ‘the message could have been conveyed in other ways’. They also said that they will ‘continue to monitor the situation in order to ensure that the religious sentiments were respected in both word and action’.

However the apology doesn’t seem to have satisfied many of the outraged Christians. Many comments on the Facebook page indicated that they wanted more action.

“I would have been happier if you didn’t have the liberty to do this in the first place” read one angry comment while other said that “government should initiate legal action against the proprietor and the interior designers.”

Similar sentiments were reflected by the NGO Watchdog Foundation which had raised the issue originally. Nicholas Almeida, a trustee of the foundation told Mid-Day that his demand of closure of the restaurant and arrest of the owner and interior designers was not “extreme”.

“We are soft-natured people, that is why we are easy targets in the city. Let them try something similar with Islam and see the consequences,” he was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

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