Six men destroyed a statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside of a Hindu temple in Queens early Tuesday morning — two weeks after the effigy was toppled over in another act of vandalism.
In the latest incident in front of the Shri Tulsi Mandir in South Richmond Hill, a pack of vandals smashed the life-sized Gandhi statue to pieces using a sledgehammer at about 1:30 a.m., police said.
The suspects also spray-painted “kutta,” meaning dog in Hindi, “Grandpi” and “Dog” on the road outside the 111th Street temple, cops said.
“To know that Gandhi represents peace and somebody would come and just target the statue and vandalize it, it’s very sad,” the temple’s founder, Pandit Maharaj, told the Queens Courier.
The suspects in Tuesday morning’s incident, described as between 25- to 30-years-old, fled the scene in two cars, a white Mercedes Benz and a darker car, possibly a Toyota Camry that is possibly used as a livery cab, police said.
“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.”
Just less than two weeks earlier, on Aug. 3 at 2 a.m., a person pushed the same Gandhi statue down, sparking community outrage and press conferences against hate crimes.
“Hindu hate is on the rise,” the area’s Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar told the Post, adding that donors have offered to pay for a replacement. “It’s outrageous. Gandhi is a symbol of peace all around the world.”
In July, Rutgers University released a report that found “evidence of a sharp rise and evolving patterns of hate speech directed toward the Hindu community across numerous social media platforms.”
In a statement, the Assemblymember — the first Hindu-American elected official in New York State — called for the perpetrators to be “apprehended swiftly, charged, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“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.”
The NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force is investigating the Aug. 16 incident and has been notified of the Aug. 3 vandalism. A spokesperson could not say if the incidents are believed to be related.
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