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US lawmakers strongly condemn vandalism of Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple

The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple in Newark, California was vandalised with anti-India graffiti and the police are investigating the matter as a possible hate crime.

Edited By: Ajeet Kumar @Ajeet1994 California Published on: December 24, 2023 12:20 IST
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple in Newark
Image Source : SOCIAL MEDIA Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple in Newark

Several US lawmakers, including three prominent Indian-American Congressmen, have strongly condemned the vandalism of a Hindu temple in California and asserted that those responsible for the act must be held accountable. The Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple in Newark, California was vandalised with anti-India graffiti and the police are investigating the matter as a possible hate crime.

Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents California's 17th Congressional District located in Silicon Valley, said in a post on X that he strongly condemns the “defacing” of the Swaminarayan temple in Newark, California which is in his district. “Freedom to worship is at the heart of American democracy. Those who committed this act of vandalism must be held accountable,” Khanna said.

Hindu community come together to remove graffiti

He said he is heartened that the community is coming together to stand up against hate and remove the graffiti. “This community action is answering wickedness with goodness,” he said. Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi termed the defacing of the Swaminarayan temple as “despicable” and said he strongly condemns it. Krishnamoorthi, the US representative for Illinois's 8th congressional district, said he is glad the community is rallying in support of the mandir.

“We must stand united against bigotry in all its ugly forms. Those who did this vandalism must be held accountable,” he said. Congressman Shri Thanedar also expressed his profound condemnation of the "disgraceful act of vandalism".

"This desecration, marked by anti-India graffiti, strikes at the very essence of our diverse and inclusive society. I denounce such attacks of intolerance and call for a thorough investigation into this heinous crime," Thanedar, the US representative from Michigan's 13th congressional district, said.

"Religious freedom and communal harmony are fundamental tenets of our nation, and I urge swift action by law enforcement to bring the perpetrators to justice, ensuring the safety and sanctity of all places of worship," he added.

US State Department also condemned the vandalism

Congresswoman Barbara Lee from California “unequivocally” condemned the attack. “Hatred in all forms cannot be tolerated. Those responsible must be held accountable,” she said. State Senator in the Ohio Senate Niraj Antani, elected to the Ohio Senate at age 29 and the youngest currently serving member of the Senate, said that as the first Hindu-American State Senator in Ohio history, he condemns in the "strongest terms” the vandalisation of the Hindu Mandir.

“The perpetrators must be caught and punished to the full extent of the law. We must root out and vanquish Hinduphobia everywhere it is,” Antani said.

The US State Department on Saturday also condemned the vandalism at the temple and welcomed efforts by the police to ensure those responsible are held accountable. "We condemn the vandalism of Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple in California. We welcome efforts by the Newark Police Department to ensure that those responsible are held accountable," the US State Department's Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs said in a post on X Saturday.

The City of Newark Police Department in Newark, Newark, California had told PTI in an emailed statement that on Friday at approximately 8:35 am, Newark Police received a report of graffiti at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple. Officers responded and met with temple leaders who described the vandalism as meant to intimidate them.

“Based on the content of the graffiti it is believed that the defacement was a targeted act, and the vandalism is being investigated as a possible hate crime,” the statement said. The Consulate General of India in San Francisco strongly condemned the defacing of the temple. “We strongly condemn the defacing of SMVS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir at Newark, California with anti-India graffiti,” the Consulate posted on X.

“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 said.

Photos and videos go viral

According to images posted on social media, the word ‘Khalistan’ was spray-painted on a signpost outside the temple along with other objectionable graffiti. Newark police further said that any acts or threats of violence, property damage, harassment, intimidation, or other crimes motivated by hate or bias are considered very serious and given very high priority.

“Officers are investigating, collecting evidence, and reviewing surveillance footage from nearby businesses to establish the chain of events and bring those responsible to justice,” the police said.

The department said that “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.

(With inputs from agency)

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



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