New York City Mayor Eric Adams and State Assembly Member Jenifer Rajkumar, an Indian-American, have revealed a new Mahatma Gandhi statue, replacing the previous one vandalized twice outside a Hindu temple in the state over a year ago.
Situated in front of Shri Tulsi Mandir on 111th Street in Richmond Hill, the Gandhi statue suffered significant damage on August 3 and 16, 2022. It was toppled, spray-painted with the derogatory term "dog," and attacked with a sledgehammer.
Reflecting on the incident, Mayor Adams declared, "Last year, the Gandhi statue in South Richmond Hill was demolished. However, our resolve to rebuild remained unshaken. Today, we joined the community to emphatically declare: Hate has no place in our city." Mayor Adams reiterated the enduring values of justice associated with Gandhi during the event, attended by members of the Indian-American community.
Jenifer Rajkumar, who championed the call for an investigation into the incident as a hate crime against Hindus and Indians, shared a video of the ceremony on social media, expressing her excitement at unveiling the statue alongside Mayor Adams.
"EXCITING! Watch myself and @NYCMayor unveil the new Mahatma Gandhi Statue at Tulsi Mandir at the site of last year’s hateful vandalism. It was a historic moment for our Richmond Hill community as we came together to show that our love will conquer all hate," she wrote.
Following the initial attack, Rajkumar rallied several elected officials, including House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Gregory Meeks, to condemn the act and demand police intervention.
As the first Hindu elected to the New York State legislature, Rajkumar expressed deep concern, stating, "When the Gandhi statue was vandalized, that really contradicted all of our beliefs and was very disturbing for the community."
Assembly Member David Weprin, Council Member Lynn Schulman, and Pandit Lakhram Maharaj, the founder of Shri Tulsi Mandir, were also present at the unveiling ceremony.
"In 2022, a hate crime was committed not once, but twice, against the Hindu community in #RichmondHill, with the destruction of the Gandhi statue in front of the Shri Tulsi Mandir. Many, including @JeniferRajkumar, @DavidWeprin, and myself stood in solidarity against this hatred. Yesterday, I was proud to join with the community to unveil a new Gandhi statue," Council Member Schulman posted on social media.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) identified six unidentified men, aged between 25 and 30, on surveillance video vandalizing the statue. The culprits fled in two separate cars, a white Mercedes Benz and a dark Toyota Camry.
One month after the incident, 27-year-old Sukhpal Singh, part of a group, was arrested and charged with hate crimes.
Expressing his dismay, Lakhram Maharaj commented, "To see them coming after us like this is very painful... I want to know why they did it." According to NYPD data, 2022 witnessed over 330 confirmed hate incidents, marking a 127% increase compared to the same period in 2020.
(With Agency Inputs)