Nearly six months after a life-size statue of Mahatma Gandhi was vandalized in New York’s Union Square, another in South Richmond Hill suffered the same fate last week, according to reports.
The incident happened on August 3 and involved the statue of Gandhi outside the Shri Tulsi Mandir, a Hindu temple located at 103-24 111th St. Photos released by Congresswoman Jenifer Rajkumar – America’s first elected Hindu at a post in New York State – show the statue toppled, its arm cracked and its hand shattered into pieces.
Rajkumar, who led a press conference on Tuesday, described the vandalism as a hate crime against the Hindu community. In a earlier statementshe stressed the importance of tolerance based on Hindu and Gandhi teachings.
“Hindus believe not only in tolerance, but in a step beyond tolerance – actively loving and respecting people from different backgrounds and religions,” Rajkumar said. “It was Mahatma Gandhi’s dream – a peaceful and loving world.”
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The congresswoman stressed that the desecration of Gandhi statues and other “anti-Hindu hate crimes” will not be tolerated in Richmond Hill and the rest of New York State. She called for the latest act of vandalism to be investigated as a hate crime and for the perpetrators to be punished to the full extent of the law.
However, Jagpreet Singh, political director of Desis Rising Up and Moving, a grassroots group focused on low-wage South Asians, cautioned against labeling the incident a hate crime.
“There have been other acts of vandalism of Gandhi statues over the past couple of years. And if you just look at these, you can see that there a lot of them were politically motivated rather than motivated against a certain religion or ethnic group,” Singh said, according to gothamist. “I think the framing that this is a hate crime is perhaps a little too premature.”
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Singh said there are also subsections of the Indian community that do not worship Gandhi, such as Dalits and Sikhs. “That’s why I’m not really trying to draw conclusions here about what exactly happened here,” he added.
The incident follows vandalism of an 8ft statue of Gandhi near New York University on February 4. Luckily, he didn’t sustain any permanent damage.
Pandit Lakhram Maharaj, founder and spiritual leader of the Shri Tulsi Mandir, said they seek healing for the perpetrators of the latest incident rather than punishment.
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“The statue may be gone, but the values it embodied will last forever, and they must guide us as we respond to this incident,” Maharaj said, according to QNS. “What we want is not revenge against the perpetrators, but mutual understanding; not a punishment, but a cure. We are grateful to have MP Rajkumar by our side as we begin this healing process.
Image selected via MP Jenifer Rajkumar’s office
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