Community, Crime, Headline

Mahatma Gandhi statue outside Queens temple vandalized

Image Credit: @COPCP2020

Second attack in two weeks; India takes up matter with US authorities

A statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside a Hindu temple in Queens, New York has been vandalized twice in less than two weeks. New York Police is investigating both incidents as possible hate crimes.

As Police search for a group of suspects the Indian consulate in New York took up the matter with US authorities to ensure those responsible for the “despicable action” are held accountable.

Read: India, GOPIO seek action against defacers of Mahatma Gandhi statue (February 9, 2022)

Surveillance video shows someone thrashing a statue of Mahatma Gandhi with a sledgehammer overnight Tuesday, according to CBS News. He smashes the head off, then topples it over. Minutes later, a group of six stomp on it and take turns hammering the statue before taking off.

“To see them coming after us like this is very painful,” Lakhram Maharaj, the founder of Shri Tulsi Mandir, the Hindu temple in South Richmond Hill, told CBS2

He discovered the Gandhi statue outside in the morning, reduced to rubble. The word “dog” was spray painted both in front of the temple and down the block.

“For someone to do that, you can see the hatred,” congregant Romeo Hitlall was quoted as saying. “We’re definitely worried because a statue, we don’t know what’s next,” he said.

That same statue was vandalized less than two weeks earlier, on Aug 3. Again, someone knocked it over in the night, breaking off the hands and nose.

“And when the Gandhi statue was vandalized, that really flew in the face of all of our beliefs and it’s very disturbing for the community,” Indian American Assembly member Jenifer Rajkumar said.

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

“Hindu hate is on the rise,” he stated. “We always knew that defeating hate would not be accomplished in one day, one week, or even one year.”

“We are committed to this fight for the long term, and will use the Hindu principles of ahimsa (non-violence) and satyagraha (soul force) that guided Gandhi himself and later the great American civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr,” Rajkumar added.

Many in the community are now afraid to go to temple, Maharaj said. “I cannot show the congregation that I am worried because if I show them that I’m worrying and I’m not strong, how will they be strong?”

The temple cannot afford to replace the statue right now. It was handcrafted for them and cost about $4,000. “I wanna know why they did it,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Consulate General of India in New York has condemned the vandalization of the statue and taken up the matter with US authorities to ensure those responsible for the “despicable action” are held accountable.

Read: Gandhi statue outside Queens temple targeted by vandals twice in one month (August 18, 2022)

The consulate “strongly condemns the vandalization of the Mahatma Gandhi statue outside a temple in Queens, New York,” it stated. “We have taken up the matter with US authorities seeking thorough investigation so that those responsible for such despicable action are held accountable.”

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the vandalism at the Tulsi Mandir last night,” the Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol tweeted. “This is not the first time something like this has happened, and it must stop. We must work together to send a clear message that hate crimes towards any religion will not be tolerated.”

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