Photos courtesy of Senator John Liu's office
Swami Harish Chander Puri speaks at press conference on July 23

Just days after an attack on a Hindu priest in Glen Oaks, Governor Cuomo directed the state police hate crimes task force to assist in the NYPD investigation.

Last week, cops arrested Sergio Gouveia, who allegedly beat beloved faith leader Swami Harish Chander Puri blocks away from the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple. According to law enforcement sources, Gouveia punched Puri and hit him with an umbrella while screaming, “This is my neighborhood.”

“I am directing the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to assist the NYPD with their investigation to ensure the individual behind this vile attack is held accountable and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Cuomo. “Violence of any kind toward others based on their faith or race is offensive to all New Yorkers and repugnant to our values. These hate-fueled acts are meant to incite fear and division within our communities, and we must stand together and disavow this behavior immediately.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers and community leaders stood in solidarity against the act of intolerance and hate in front of the temple on Tuesday. The group decried the attack, saying that it is the antithesis of New York values.

“It’s simply horrific and agonizing to think that this man of peace and spirituality, our beloved Swami Puri Ji, could be beaten so viciously in this wonderful neighborhood,” said Senator John Liu. “That he was attacked while wearing his religious robe, so near his temple, evokes every fear that this was a hate crime. Tragically, I’ve seen too many attacks of this type to believe this was a random act of violence. We all stand together united in our resolve to denounce hate and to promote peace in this community. We are also reminded of the importance of legislation passed to protect against this type of hate, such as the Religious Attire Bill explicitly prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of religious appearance.”

Senator John Liu

Police charged Gouveira with assault, but he does not face hate crime charges despite his comments.

Puri originally established the Shiv Shakti Peeth in Kurukshetra, India, and eventually brought it over to the United States to serve Hindus in New York. When QNS spoke to Puri, the swami said he forgave Gouveira and prayed that God would lead him in a positive direction.

“It is our dharma to denounce the racist, anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric in our country today. Bigoted rhetoric and policies are the top result in bigoted actions in our communities,” said Aminta Kilawan-Narine, Esq., co-founder and board member of Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus. “For Sadhana, our message is twofold: to denounce violence and bigotry, because for us, the same divinity resides equally and identically in all; and to embrace Swami Ji’s compassionate perspective recognizing that even this man who attacked Swamiji is a person who deserves our compassion. We will build a platform for truth and justice and fight hard against forces that divide. But our platform, since we are a people of deep faith, must have room for compassion and forgiveness for the misguided ones among us.”

Also in attendance were Attorney General Leticia James; Congresswoman Grace Meng; Senators Leroy Comrie and Kevin Thomas; Assembly members Ed Braunstein, Nily Rozic and Clyde Vandel; and Council members David Weprin, Barry Grodenchik and I. Daneek Miller.

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