NEW YORK: In a possible hate crime, unidentified persons have destroyed a handcrafted statue of Mahatma Gandhi with a sledgehammer at a Hindu temple here after vandalising it earlier this month, media reports said on Friday.
Surveillance video shows a person thrashing a statue of Gandhi with a sledgehammer on Tuesday, before smashing the head off and toppling it over, according to cbsnews.com.
Minutes later, a group of six stomp on it and take turns hammering the statue before taking off, the report said.
"To see them coming after us like this is very painful," Lakhram Maharaj, the founder of Shri Tulsi Mandir, situated in South Richmond Hill was quoted as saying in the report.
Maharaj discovered the Gandhi statue was reduced to rubble on Wednesday morning. The word "dog" was spray painted both in front of the temple and down the block, it said. The same Gandhi statue was vandalised two weeks ago, investigating officials said.
"When the Gandhi statue was vandalised, that really flew in the face of all of our beliefs and it's very disturbing for the community," Assembly member Jenifer Rajkumar said in the report.
The New York Police Department is investigating both incidents as possible hate crimes, media reports said. Maharaj says many in the community are now afraid to go to the temple.
"I cannot show the congregation that I am worried because if I show them that I'm worrying and I'm not strong, how will they be strong?" the report quoted him as saying.
The temple authorities cannot afford to replace the Gandhi statue, because it was handcrafted and cost about USD 4,000, the report said.
"I want to know why they did it," Maharaj said. This is not the first time that a statue of Gandhi was desecrated in the US. In February this year, an 8-foot-high Gandhi statue, located in Manhattan's Union Square, was defaced by unknown persons.
In December 2020, Khalistani-supporters had desecrated a Gandhi statue in Washington, DC in front of the Indian Embassy. The then White House Press Secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, had termed the incident as 'terrible'.