‘It’s very sad’: South Richmond Hill Hindu temple’s Gandhi statue vandalized for second time in two weeks

Gandhi Statue
The vandalized Mahatma Gandhi statue outside of the Shri Tulsi Mandir in South Richmond Hill. (Photo by COPCP)

Pandit Maharaj, founder of the Shri Tulsi Mandir in South Richmond Hill, says community members are sad and heartbroken after the Mahatma Gandhi statue was again vandalized late Tuesday night on Aug. 16. 

The attack comes less than two weeks after the same Gandhi statue was damaged on Aug. 3 outside of the mandir, located at 103-24 111th St.

“The first time it happened the person was speaking Spanish. This time, they were speaking in Hindi,” Maharaj told QNS. “To know that Gandhi represents peace and somebody would come and just target the statue and vandalize it, it’s very sad.” 

According to police, the incident occurred at 1:30 a.m., when six unidentified males allegedly destroyed the statue with a sledgehammer and spray-painted the word “kutta” (which means “dog” in Hindi) and wrote “Grandpi” and “Dog” on the road of 111th Street. 

(Photo by COPCP)

The individuals then fled toward Liberty Avenue and entered two vehicles, a white Mercedes Benz, and a possibly dark colored Toyota Camry with a possible taxi/livery sticker on the back passenger window, police said. 

No injuries were reported, according to police. 

The 106th Precinct is now seeking the public’s help in identifying the group of individuals who are wanted for questioning in connection with the vandalism of the statue. On Thursday, Aug. 18, police released surveillance footage of the suspects whom they say are approximately 25 to 30 years of age. 

Meanwhile, Maharaj has been receiving phone calls from people locally and abroad offering to help replace the statue. However, members of the mandir are worried about attending services following the incidents, Maharaj said. 

“People are seeing what’s happening around the country, and when people go to worship, they lose their life. We are here to reassure them that the police promised they will be present when there is service at the mandir,” Maharaj said. “Everything else is in God’s hands.” 

According to Maharaj, the mandir has been targeted in the past when someone lit the flags out front on fire. 

Following the destruction of the statue, the Cityline Ozone Park Civilian Patrol (COPCP) has increased its presence in the area at night. They have also purchased a pressure washer to remove the graffiti once it is permitted by the police. 

In a Twitter post, the COPCP said they were “deeply saddened” to learn about the vandalism that occurred at the mandir. 

“This is not the first time something like this has happened, and it must stop,” COPCP wrote. “We must work together to send a clear message that hate crimes towards any religion will not be tolerated.” 

Council District 31 Leader Richard David tweeted, “Strongly condemn this second attack on the same Gandhi statue at Tulsi Mandir in #Little Guyana #Queens. Last week it was damaged, this week it was destroyed. We will rebuild.” 

After denouncing the first attack during a press conference held outside of the mandir on Aug. 9, state Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar said the NYPD is currently investigating both incidents as a possible hate crime. 

Rajkumar is calling for the perpetrators to be “apprehended swiftly, charged and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Since the targeting of the Gandhi statue and the Hindu temple, Rajkumar said she has received an outpouring of support not just in Queens, but from people all around the world. 

“I have spoken with government leaders across the country. All are committed to re-doubling our efforts to combat anti-Hindu hate. We always knew that defeating hate would not be accomplished in one day, one week, or even one year,” Rajkumar said. “We are committed to this fight for the long term, and will use the Hindu principles of ahimsa (non-violence) and satyagraha (soul force) that guided Gandhi himself and later the great American civil rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Anyone with information in regard to this incident is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 888-57-PISTA (74782). The public can also submit their tips by logging onto the CrimeStoppers website at crimestoppers.nypdonline.org or on Twitter @NYPDTips. All calls are strictly confidential.