Akash Mehra Was Killed For Being Indian In A Land That Separatists Want Perceived ‘Differently’
Remembering a visit to Srinagar’s Krishna Dhaba whose 22 year old owner Akash Mehra breathed his last yesterday after 11 days of battling an attack by terrorists.
Srinagar is in the news yet again sadly for the wrong reasons since Sunday. After battling for life for eleven days since Akash Mehra was shot at by assailants, he breathed his last at the SHMS Hospital.
Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha condoled Mehra’s death while condemning the attack saying militants would never succeed in their nefarious designs. He said the perpetrators of the attack would be brought to justice while leaders from the region across party lines expressed grief at his demise.
Scenes of the candle light vigil that corporators from the region have held outside the restaurant whose shutters have stayed shut since the attack have been shared on social media on Monday evening.
But it sight feels eerie to see this place that was bustling with customers mourning its owner; for it was exactly this time of the year three years ago when we thanked our stars for this eatery that this young life was an heir to.
The last meal I had on my trip to this crown of our country was at Krishna Vaishno Dhaba - a must visit on every travellers list, a mandatory check-in place for every foodie who lands in the valley and a vegetarian gastronomic heaven when in Srinagar.
The news of Akash Mehra being shot at 17 days ago is bound to send a shiver down the spine of anyone who knows what this place stands for. Located in Dalgate, a high security area, a stone’s throw away from many high-profile offices and residences, the place was a landmark.
Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar said during a press conference on February 19 that the attack was carried out by three newly recruited motorcycle borne terrorists. The IGP said the three had been arrested and the pistol and the motorcycle used in carrying out the attack had also been recovered.
With due respect to every life lost in the region, this one is a strong message to the Indian establishment by the anti-national elements in the region who have ‘taken offence’ to the new domicile law that has been put in place post the revocation of Article 370.
That is, at least, what the letter that has been circulated on social media claims to say. Banned terror outfit Muslim Janbaz Force claimed it attacked Mehra, calling him “an outsider as he desired J&K domicile”.
But was Mehra an outsider?
Forever packed with tourists, the Dhaba usually has many queued up outside although there are few other dhabas around. And for South Indians who would have ’managed’ with available vegetarian options during their travel and stay, the sight of the letters DOSA on a menu in Kashmir feels plain divine. But this place, whose Parathas and Rajma Chawal do justice to their name, didn’t dish out tawa roasted batter along with some weird paste that is often passed off as ’south indian’ breakfast.
The tightly packed close-knit seating arrangement with its mild lemon coloured tables and benches had people licking the ‘authentic’ coconut chutney and sambhar off their fingers with perfectly made ‘Dosa’. It wont be hyperbolic to say that the six of us on the table had gobbled up food to last us the next 12 hours before we could head to the Srinagar museum and then the airport.
Akash’s father Ramesh Mehra started the restaurant in 1984 (as he himself says in a video post by a food blogger on Instagram, one day before he was shot at) and the place has been catering to vegetarian food needs of locals and tourists alike.
It was in the bucket list of all travellers who went to the valley and a boon for those looking for clean, vegetarian, and a delectable array of pan-Indian food. Clearly, he was no outsider. And ensured you didn’t feel like one either.
For it offered to every ‘Indian’ something of ‘their own’ in this land that separatists want perceived as ‘different’ from the rest of the nation. And this is exactly what has been murdered by the pistol wielding terrorists who shot the young man who sat at the cash counter that fateful day.
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