A Little Neck man was arrested and charged with criminal mischief as a hate crime for allegedly smashing the Mahatma Gandhi statue in front of the Tulsi Mandir Temple in South Richmond Hill last month, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
“As alleged, the defendant, along with several unapprehended others, committed a disgraceful act of violence against a Mahatma Gandhi statue that has become a universal symbol of peace, unity and inclusivity. Hate and bias-motivated attacks have no place in our communities and my office will hold such perpetrators accountable. The defendant has been apprehended and is charged appropriately.”
Sukhpal Singh, 27, of Little Neck Road, was arrested on Saturday, Sept. 17, and charged with one count of criminal mischief in the second degree as a hate crime, criminal mischief in the second degree and aggravated harassment in the first degree.
According to the complaint, on Aug. 16, at 9 a.m., a priest at the Tulsi Mandir Temple, located at 103-26 111th St., reported that the Mahatma Gandhi was broken into multiple pieces along with the words “Kutta Dog” spray painted on the pieces.
Furthermore, according to Katz’s office, police officers observed video surveillance from Aug. 16 at 3 a.m., which depicted five individuals pushing down the statue, striking it several times with a sledgehammer and spray-painting it. The individuals then ran toward Liberty Avenue and some entered a Mercedes Benz C-Class vehicle bearing the license plate number KUG9664 and some entered a black Toyota Camry.
According to Katz, after the investigation by the NYPD, it was determined that the registered owner of the Mercedes Benz vehicle observed on video surveillance is Singh.
The case is being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Hate Crimes Bureau under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Michael Brovner, Bureau Chief and under the overall supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney for the Supreme Court Trial Division Pishoy Yacoub.
Queens Criminal Court Judge Odessa Kennedy ordered Singh to return to court on Oct. 17. Singh faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, who condemned the attack, said she is not calling for harsh punishment against Singh, as Gandhi believed “that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
“In keeping with this spirit, I call for all those involved in this act of hate to educate themselves about the mutual respect and inclusivity taught by Gandhi, and adopt love in their hearts towards all. Myself and the Hindu community are ready to embrace them with open arms. I invite the perpetrators to drop the sledgehammer and join with us in the cause of peace,” Rajkumar said.