NYC leaders condemn alleged hate crime at Hindu Temple in Queens

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New York State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar addressing a press conference August 9, 2022, she called on the Hindu Tulsi Mandir in Queens, allegedly vandalized earlier this month. Photo: courtesy Assemblywoman Rajkumar’s Office

At a press conference called by New York Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar August 9, 2022, several elected officials and community leaders condemned an alleged hate crime at the Tulsi Mandir in Queens.

The Hindu temple in South Richmond Hill was allegedly vandalized Wednesday, August 3, by three unidentified men, and a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was smashed and toppled outside the mandir

This comes after the vandalism of Union Square’s famed Gandhi statue in February, and the desecration of other Gandhi statues around the world, a press release from Assemblywoman Rajkumar said.

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“A central tenet of Hinduism is inclusivity and mutual respect toward people of all faiths. Hindus believe not just in tolerance, but in one step more than tolerance– actively loving and respecting people of different backgrounds and faiths,” Rajkumar is quoted saying at the press conference. “This was Mahatma Gandhi’s dream– a peaceful, loving world. We have achieved Gandhi’s dream in Richmond Hill, where Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, and Christians live together in harmony, often on the same block,” she claimed, and in that context the “desecration of Gandhi statues and anti-Hindu hate crimes will not be tolerated in Richmond Hill or anywhere in New York State.”

In June, successfully got a law passed to create the first ever Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission in New York State, which aims at developing solutions to the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.

Tulsi Mandir Pandit Lakhram Maraj at press conference and rally Aug 9, 2022, in Queens, relating to the vandalism at the Tulsi Mandir earlier this month. Photo: courtesy Tulsi Mandir.

Pandit Lakhram Maharaj, founder and spiritual leader of Shri Tulsi Mandir, said, “We are all so proud that Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar is the first Hindu American in New York State Office, and we are blessed that she brings the whole community together to take action at this challenging moment in time for the Hindu-American community.”

The statue of Gandhi, “represented our Hindu values of love, respect, and peace. The statue may be gone, but the values it embodied will endure forever, and they must guide us as we respond to this incident,” Maharaj said, adding, “What we want is not revenge against the perpetrators, but mutual understanding; not punishment, but healing.”

U.S. Congressman Gregory Meeks, D-NY, speaking at the press conference plus rally August 9, 2022, to condemn the vandalism at Tulsi Mandir in Queens, NY, Aug. 3. Photo: Tulsi Mandir

“I condemn the vile desecration of the Mohandas Gandhi statue at the Tulsi Mandir,” said Congressman Gregory Meeks. “Acts of hate have no place in our community and nation and the perpetrators need to be held accountable,” Meeks added pledging to work with Rajkumar and those present as well as, in Washington, D.C. “to fight against the scourge of hatred and intoleranc Add Video Player e permeating our communities.”

“Hate has no place in Queens, and hateful acts like the disgraceful vandalism that took place at the Shri Tulsi Mandir will not be tolerated here,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr.  “Queens is called ‘The World’s Borough’ because we respect the many different cultures of our residents. So when an act of hate is committed against one group, our entire borough stands together as one community in denouncing the hate.”

“I’m horrified that a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was vandalized outside of a Hindu temple in my district last week,” said New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. Hate has no place in our community, Queens, or New York City. I join my colleagues, community, and faith leaders to unequivocally denounce this troubling act of hate.”

NYS Assembly Member David Weprin at a press conference/rally Aug 9, 2022, in Queens to condemn vandalism earlier in August, at the Hindu Tulsi Mandir. Photo: Tulsi Mandir

Similar views were expressed by other elected leaders including State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., Assemblyman David Weprin,  Councilwoman Joann Ariola, Community Board 10 Chair Betty Braton, and 106th Precinct Community Council President Frank Dardani, and Richmond Hill community leader Romeo Hitllal.

Suhag Shukla, Executive Director of the Hindu American Foundation, called on local and federal law enforcement to investigate the latest attack and whether it is related to similar attacks on statues of Gandhi in other parts of the country.

Nikunj Trivedi, president of the Coalition of Hindus of North America, said the organization, “strongly condemns this hate crime against the Tulsi Mandir and stands in solidarity with Assemblywoman Rajkumar in calling for a swift investigation.”

 

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