Uphill climb for pahadi restaurant, name cooks up storm

Owner Preeti Maindoliya, protesters argue, has insulted the hill people to "matrashakti (woman power)" with the name of the restaurant. One of the protesters, who allegedly assaulted Maindoliya, has been arrested.

A nondescript restaurant promising Indian, Chinese, Tandoori and Chaat food, with local recipes on its menu, and the photo of a cherubic child chuckling next to a tandoor steak on its board, is hardly the stuff of haute cuisine. However, in six days of operations, Dehradun to Delhi, ‘Pyari Pahadan’ has cooked up a storm.

Owner Preeti Maindoliya, protesters argue, has insulted the hill people to “matrashakti (woman power)” with the name of the restaurant. One of the protesters, who allegedly assaulted Maindoliya, has been arrested.

A B.Tech, Maindoliya, 26, says running a restaurant was her first dream, and so she decided to pursue it after two years of working as an electronics engineer. She took up an 180 sq ft space in the Banjarawal area of Dehradun, and named her eatery ‘Pyari Pahadan’. The name had always appealed to her as ‘Pahadan’ was what her classmates from the plains called her in college, she says. Her mother moved from Dhumakot, their village in Pauri Garhwal, hit by migration like many other villages in Uttarakhand, to help her run the restaurant.

But within an hour of the restaurant opening on August 1, a man later identified as Surendra Rawat did a Facebook Live from the site, objecting to the name. Later, he arrived with some women, who allegedly threatened Maindoliya, calling the name an insult to matrashakti and pahadis. “I told them I was also a pahadi, and had been born and brought up in Pauri Garhwal district,” says Maindoliya, the daughter of a government teacher.

Soon, she says, she also got calls threatening that unless she changed its name the restaurant would be vandalised.

On August 2, Rawat reportedly arrived with Bhawana Pandey and Pramila Rawat, and Maindoliya was assaulted, causing her to pass out. Her mother Neelima filed a complaint at the Patel Nagar Police Station and an FIR was lodged against the three under IPC Sections 354 (assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt) and 506 (criminal intimidation). Surendra Rawat has been arrested and probe is on, Pradeep Rana, Station Officer, Patel Nagar, said.

While Maindoliya says she was told the three were associated with the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD), the political outfit issued a statement denying any links and condemning the attack on her. “Bhawana Pandey is not associated with the UKD. Names of some other persons associated with the UKD have appeared in the matter and will be probed. The UKD fully supports the victim and will cooperate in getting the guilty punished,” a release by UKD state president Kashi Singh Airy said.

Pandey claims to have fought for Uttarakhand’s statehood, and says she is a social worker aspiring to contest the next Assembly elections. Denying raising hands against Maindoliya, she says, “Would you like it if somebody calls your mother or sister a ‘pyari pahadan’?” Pandey also claims that Pramila Rawat is a leader of the UKD. Pramila wasn’t available for comment.

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