Aug. 25, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Mayor Eric Adams, Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar and several other Queens lawmakers held a rally outside a South Richmond Hill temple Wednesday where a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was recently destroyed by vandals.
The rally took place in front of the Hindu temple Tulsi Mandir, located at 103-26 111 St., where police say six vandals smashed a sculpture of Gandhi with a sledgehammer last week. The incident came less than two weeks after the same statue – which had been standing in front of the temple — was toppled over by a group of three suspects.
The event was organized by Rajkumar and was attended by several Queens electeds including State Senator James Sanders, Assemblymembers David Weprin and Khaleel Anderson, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams along with Councilmembers Linda Lee and Joann Ariola. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz was also present along with several representatives from the Hindu community.
The attendees said they were coming together to show a unified front against Hindu hate.
Adams denounced the attack on the statue and vowed to catch the suspects responsible for the crimes.
“We are not going to stand back and allow attacks on our houses of worship… and we will not allow an individual to participate in this hate without going apprehended,” Adams said.
Adams, who said he had visited Gandhi’s home in India in the past, said that hate has no place in a diverse city like New York City. He said preventative measures such as the “Breaking Bread, Building Bonds” program would help stamp out future acts of hate. The program, which Adams helped establish in 2020, sees people of different backgrounds coming together for a meal in order to learn about different cultures.
“The goal is not only responding to hate but preventing hate,” Adams said. “We fight to remove hate and create an environment where hate will not fester and grow.”
The latest attack on the statue took place on Aug. 16 at around 1:30 a.m. when six unidentified suspects decimated the structure with a sledgehammer, according to police. The statue was found face down on the ground while the back of the statue was spray-painted with the word “kutta,” which means dog in Hindi. The English word “dog” was also spray-painted on the ground beside the statue.
Rajkumar said that the symbolic meaning behind the statue will live on, even though the physical sculpture had been destroyed.
“The Gandhi statue may be gone but we will continue to spread Gandhi’s message of peace and love throughout the city, the state and the entire nation,” Rajkumar said. “We are proud Hindus, and we are proud Americans.”
Rajkumar said that Gandhi — and the Hindu principles of ahimsa (non-violence) and satyagraha (soul force) – inspired Martin Luther King’s push for civil rights in America.
The lawmaker, who is the first Hindu-American to be elected to the state legislature, said that she has received an outpouring of support from people throughout the borough — and from people around the world – following the latest incident.
Meanwhile, Katz said that her office is investigating the alleged crimes in coordination with the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force.
“If you spew hate, we will come together as a community and say, ‘we will not tolerate it.’” Katz said.
“Hate crimes in Queens county will be prosecuted. “We will find you, we will hold you accountable… and we will make sure you are brought to justice.”
‼️ WANTED- Criminal Mischief at Hindu Temple ‼️
Please assist Hate Crime Task Force in identifying the following perpetrators. There were 2 incidents occurring at Tulsi Mandir in the South Richmond Hill section of Queens. Below are bulletins with preliminary information👇 pic.twitter.com/6XXG2vNGCh
— NYPD Hate Crimes (@NYPDHateCrimes) August 18, 2022