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'Extremists should not be given...': India's response to vandalism of Hindu temple in California

Some suspected pro-Khalistan activists defaced the Swaminarayan temple in Newark, California. One of the devotees, who lives near to the temple, noticed anti-Hindu, anti-India graffiti in black ink on the exterior wall of the temple and informed the local authorities.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gandhinagar Published on: December 23, 2023 17:19 IST
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday.
Image Source : ANI External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday.

After the vandalism and defacement of a Hindu temple with anti-India and pro-Khalistani graffiti sparked outrage, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on Saturday took note of the incident and remarked that such extremists should not be given space in any country. Notably, this is one of several attacks on Hindu temples in foreign countries.

Some suspected pro-Khalistan activists defaced the Swaminarayan temple in Newark, California. One of the devotees, who lives near to the temple, noticed anti-Hindu, anti-India graffiti in black ink on the exterior wall of the temple and informed the local authorities. The Newark police have assured a thorough investigation.

Reacting to the incident, the External Affairs Minister said that the Indian Consulate in San Francisco has already taken up the matter with the US authorities and an investigation is underway. "I have seen it. As you know, we are concerned about this. Extremists, separatists and such forces should not be given space. Our consulate there complained to the government and the police and an inquiry is underway," the EAM told reporters on Saturday.

"We strongly condemn the defacing of SMVS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir at Newark, California with anti-India graffiti. This incident has hurt the sentiments of the Indian community. We have pressed for quick investigation and prompt action against the vandals by the US authorities in this matter," the Consulate General of India in San Francisco said.

What did the police say?

Jonathan Arguello, a police captain for the city of Newark, said the 'targeted act' was being investigated. "Based on the graffiti, we believe it was a targeted act, and it's going to be investigated with full thoroughness. I can also tell you that as a member of the Newark Police Department and the Newark community, we're deeply saddened when these types of acts occur, and we think they're senseless and they have no room. We won't tolerate them here in Newark," he said during a press conference.

"So today, I wanted to make sure that you understand how seriously we take these situations and know that we will investigate as thoroughly as possible with utmost care and sensitivity. I can also tell you that officers are currently investigating this via evidence collection," he added.

The police department said, “We stand united with our community and are urging community members with any information regarding this incident to come forward and speak with investigators.” The police are asking anyone with information regarding this investigation to contact the Newark Police Investigations Unit.

Earlier incidents

This is not the first instance where a temple has been defaced with such graffiti in the recent past by Khalistani separatists. India's consulate in San Francisco in July came under an attack from Khalistan supporters who tried to set the diplomatic facility on fire.

India has been asking its partner countries such as Canada, the UK and the US to not give space to "extremist Khalistani ideology". It is also important to mention that Khalistan supporters have increased their anti-India activities after the death of Canada-based Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

The vandalism of the temple in Newark came close on the heels of allegations of an Indian official's involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate a separatist Sikh leader in the US. The Indian official has been linked by American prosecutors to an individual accused of conspiring to assassinate Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in the United States.

On this incident, Jaishankar said that the indicted 52-year-old Nikhil Gupta, currently detained in the Czech Republic, has been provided consular access thrice. "He (Nikhil Gupta) needed consular access, our embassy provided that. He has been provided consular access thrice..." Jaishankar said.

Earlier, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, "It is a legal issue...an Indian national is under the custody of the Czech Republic. The request for extradition by the US is pending there. We have had consular access three times. We are providing whatever possible consular help in the matter."

(with ANI inputs)

ALSO READ | Hindu temple vandalised with anti-India, pro-Khalistan graffiti in California

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