In a possible hate crime, a group of six unidentified persons destroyed a handcrafted statue of Mahatma Gandhi with a sledgehammer at a Hindu temple here after vandalising it earlier this month.India on Friday strongly condemned the “despicable action” and took up the matter with the US authorities to ensure those responsible for the act are held accountable.The New York City Police Department in a statement to PTI said it was reported to police on August 16 at approximately 0130 hours that ”a group of six unidentified male individuals” damaged and vandalised ”a religious statue with a sledge hammer in front of Tulsi Mandir located at 103-26 111 Street”.
”The male individuals then fled toward Liberty Avenue and entered two vehicles, a white Mercedes Benz and a dark colour possibly a Toyota Camry with possible taxi/livery sticker on the back passenger window,” it said, adding that the miscreants were approximately aged between 25 to 30 years.
The NYPD has asked for the public’s assistance in ascertaining the whereabouts of the miscreants and urged anyone with information related to the incident to call its Crime Stoppers Hotline or submit their tips at Crime Stoppers website.
New York State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar in a statement on Thursday said, ”In an act outraging the entire Queens community and peace-loving people worldwide, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside Shri Tulsi Mandir was vandalised for a second time.” ”This time, the statue was totally destroyed and graffitied with obscene names. Vandals also graffitied the mandir grounds and 111th Street asphalt,” the Indian-American lawmaker said.
Surveillance video shows a person thrashing a statue of Gandhi with a sledgehammer on Tuesday, before smashing the head off and toppling it over, according to cbsnews.com.Minutes later, a group of six stomp on it and take turns hammering the statue before taking off, it said.
”To see them coming after us like this is very painful,” Lakhram Maharaj, the founder of Shri Tulsi Mandir situated in South Richmond Hill, was quoted as saying in the report.Maharaj discovered the Gandhi statue was reduced to rubble on Wednesday morning.
The words ”dog” and ”Gandpi dog” were spray painted both in front of the temple and down the block.Maharaj says many in the community are now afraid to go to the temple.”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 report quoted him as saying. The temple authorities cannot afford to replace the Gandhi statue, because it was handcrafted and cost about USD 4,000, the report said.”I want to know why they did it,” Maharaj said.The same Gandhi statue was vandalised two weeks ago, investigating officials said”When the Gandhi statue was vandalised, that really flew in the face of all of our beliefs and it’s very disturbing for the community,” said Rajkumar, the first south Asian woman to be elected to New York State Assembly.