We received a few emails about a truly disturbing incident that occurred right before the holidays last year at downtown restaurant Leela Lounge on West 3rd Street. Friends of Leela Lounge owner Ashwani Nagpal emailed us with a press release:

On the night of December 22/early December 23, 2006, Ashwani Nagpal, one of the owners of Leela Lounge, known to many of his patrons as a friend and a well-liked member of the community, was beaten to the point of unconsciousness in his own restaurant by a number of individuals, all in their 20s.

Leela Lounge, a popular India-inspired restaurant in the NYU area where many fundraising events have been hosted by a variety of organizations and individuals, has been a part of the Greenwich Village community for approximately a year. Early December 23, 2006, individuals who were present at a holiday party at Leela Lounge attacked both Mr. Nagpal and his friend and co-worker, Asheesh Mathur. Thankfully, both Mr. Nagpal and Mr. Mathur escaped the incident alive; however, Mr. Nagpal suffered injuries to the head and Mr. Mathur, a fractured nose and cracked jaw. During the course of these assaults, racial and ethnic slurs were directed to at least one of the victims. It is chilling to realize that members of the South Asian and Greenwich Village community could suffer this sort of violent crime by patrons at their own establishment.

Although several individuals were responsible for the assault, five individuals were arrested that night and are currently facing criminal charges for violent gang assault, but as of yet, no indictment has been made. There is a court date scheduled for February 20, 2007. In the meantime, the community is being urged to contact the DA's office to encourage full prosecution of the case and to show support for Mr. Nagpal and Mr. Mathur

For more information, go to this site which has contact info for the Manahttan DA's office and a rally on February 20.