A Queens man was arrested over the weekend and charged with a hate crime for allegedly vandalizing a statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside a Hindu temple on South Richmond Hill last month.
Sukhpal Singh, 27, has been charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime for allegedly smashing the statue in front of Tulsi Mandir Temple on August 16, the Queens District Attorney announced Monday.
Singh and four others – who have not yet been arrested – are said to have accessed the life-size Gandhi statue with a sledgehammer and smashed it into pieces in the early morning demolition.
The suspects reportedly spray-painted “kutta,” the Hindi word for dog, at the shattered statue and spray-painted the words “grandpi” and “dog” on a street and pathway in front of the temple on 111th Street.
The pack of vandals destroyed the statue just two weeks after the effigy was toppled in another act of vandalism – although it’s unclear if the cases are linked.
“As alleged, the defendant, along with several others who have not been arrested, committed a shameful act of violence against a Mahatma Gandhi statue that has become a universal symbol of peace, unity and inclusivity,” Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in an explanation. “Attacks motivated by hate and prejudice have no place in our communities and my office will hold such perpetrators accountable.”
Singh, of Little Neck Road, provided one of the getaway cars captured on surveillance footage, according to Queens prosecutors.
Footage showed the five men toppling the statue, repeatedly hitting it with sledgehammers, spraying it and running toward Liberty Avenue. Some of the men jumped into a black Toyota Camry and others into a Mercedes Benz C-Class vehicle, video shows.
Investigators were able to extract the license plate number of the Mercedes Benz from the video and learned that it was registered to Singh, the Queens District Attorney said.
Singh was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court on Sunday on one count of criminal mischief as a hate crime, another count of criminal mischief and one count of aggravated harassment.
If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
The act of vandalism rocked the South Richmond Hill Hindu community.
“To know that Gandhi represents peace and someone would come and just aim at the statue and destroy it is very sad,” the temple’s founder, Pandit Maharaj, told the Queens Courier at the time of the incident.
Member of Parliament Jenifer Rajkumar — who represents the territory and is the first Hindu-American elected official in New York State — said hatred and prejudice against the local Hindu community is growing.
In July, Rutgers University released a report that found “evidence of a sharp rise and evolving patterns of hate speech against the Hindu community on numerous social media platforms.”
in one statement MondayRajkumar thanked Katz and the NYPD for the arrest and urged the alleged vandals to investigate.
“Today I am not demanding harsh punishment of the arrested perpetrator because Gandhi himself believed that an eye for an eye blinds the whole world,” she said. “In keeping with this spirit, I call on all involved in this act of hate to educate themselves on the mutual respect and inclusivity taught by Gandhi and to embrace love for all.”
She added that the Hindu community “is ready to embrace the suspects with open arms.”
“I urge the perpetrators to drop the sledgehammer and join us in the cause of peace,” Rajkumar said.
https://nypost.com/2022/09/19/man-charged-for-destroying-gandhi-statue-at-nyc-hindu-temple/ Man charged with destroying Gandhi statue at New York Hindu temple