Like Gandhi himself, the statue outside Vishnu Mandir Hindu temple in Richmond, Ontario was larger than life, a mainstay in the community for over thirty years.
On Wednesday, the five-meter tall statue was vandalized in what police are now investigating as a hate crime.
According to the CBC, officers from the York Regional Police were called to the area around 12:30 pm. Upon arrival, they saw that the statue’s base had been defaced, with words such as “rapist” and “Khalistan” scrawled upon it with spraypaint.
Khalistan refers to the imagined Sikh-majority state whose creation separatist activists in India have long pushed for.
A spokeswoman for the York Regional Police, Const. Amy Boudreau, suggested it was a “hate bias motivated incident,” adding that the department “does not tolerate hate crime in any form.”
Boudreau went on to emphasize that, “Those who victimize others based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression and the like will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Chairman of the temple Dr. Budhendra Doobay told the CBC that along with a “feeling of disgust,” he was “disappointed” by the incident.
“We live so peacefully in Richmond Hill here for so many years and nothing, nothing, nothing has ever happened like this.”
He suggested that “if we can live the way that Gandhi taught us to live, then we will not cause hurt to anyone or any community.”
We are deeply anguished by this hate crime that seeks to terrorize the Indian community. It has led to increased concern and insecurity in the Indian community here. We have approached the Canadian government to investigate and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice swiftly. https://t.co/wDe3BUpEWi
— India in Canada (@HCI_Ottawa) July 13, 2022
The Consulate General of India in Toronto, as well as the High Commission in Ottawa, expressed their thoughts via Twitter.
“We are deeply anguished by this hate crime that seeks to terrorize the Indian community,” the High Commission wrote. “It has led to increased concern and insecurity in the Indian community here. We have approached the Canadian government to investigate and ensure perpetrators are brought to justice swiftly.”
No information has been revealed regarding possible suspects.
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