Indian Overseas Congress offers to pay for Gandhi statue restoration

The IOC USA Washington, DC, chapter writes to the National Parks Service director conveying its willingness to pay for the repair.

The Indian Overseas Congress USA’s Washington, DC, chapter has offered to bear the costs of repairing the recently vandalized Mahatma Gandhi statue outside the Embassy of India in Washington, D.C.

The statue was defaced and spray painted during the late hours of Tuesday, June 2, by an unknown group of people. It has since been covered up to prepare for restoration.

An investigation into the incident is being conducted after the Indian embassy informed the Department of State and registered a complaint with local law enforcement agencies.

IOC USA’s willingness to pay for the restoration was conveyed by its DC chapter president Johnson Myalil, in a letter to David Vela, the acting director of the U.S. National Parks Service, the agency responsible for protecting the statue and the surrounding areas.

“We learned with great sadness that the Mahatma Gandhi Statue, on Massachusetts Ave and 21st Street NW, across the Embassy of India in Washington, DC, has been vandalized early this week,” Myalil wrote to Vela in the letter dated June 5, 2020. “I want to let you know that my organization is willing to bear the cost associated with the restoration of the statue.”

RELATED: Mahatma Gandhi statue in Washington vandalized amid George Floyd protests and riots  (June 4, 2020)

Speaking to the American Bazaar by phone Saturday, Myalil said, “We are outraged by the desecration of the Gandhi statute. It is unfortunate that Gandhi has been under attack both within and outside India.”

He said he is awaiting a response from the National Parks Service, in whose property the statue is located.

The vandalism occurred during a week of nationwide — and global — protests against police brutality in the United States. The protests were triggered by the death of 46-year-old George Floyd, an African American man who died when a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest on May 25.

Gandhi’s statue was not the only memorial defaced in the past week. In Washington, D.C., a historic church was burned down and both the National Monument and Lincoln Memorial were spray painted.

It is not clear the extent of damage to the Gandhi statue, since it was covered up immediately after the incident.

A press statement from the Embassy of India stated the statue was “vandalized with graffiti/spray paint by unknown persons.”

The statement read, “The Embassy has taken up the matter with the US Department of State for early investigation into the matter, as also with the Metropolitan Police and National Park Service. The Embassy is working with the US Department of State, Metropolitan Police and National Park Service for expeditious restoration of the statue at the park.”

Much of the world came to know about the vandalism when U.S. Ambassador to India Ken Juster tweeted about the incident on Twitter and with an apology. He wrote: “So sorry to see the desecration of the Gandhi statue in Wash, DC. Please accept our sincere apologies. Appalled as well by the horrific death of George Floyd & the awful violence & vandalism. We stand against prejudice & discrimination of any type. We will recover & be better.”

The bronze memorial was erected on September 16, 2000, as a gift from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. It was unveiled during a state visit by then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in the presence of the then US president Bill Clinton.

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