A Queens man was arrested over the weekend on a hate crime charge for allegedly destroying a statue of Mahatma Gandhi outside a Hindu temple in South Richmond Hill last month.
Sukhpal Singh, 27, was charged with criminal mischief in the form of a hate crime for allegedly vandalizing the statue in front of the Tulsi Mandir shrine on August 16, the Queens District Attorney announced on Monday.
Singh and four others – who are yet to be arrested – allegedly took a hammer to the life-size Gandhi statue and smashed it in destruction in the morning.
The suspects reportedly spray-painted the Hindi word for dog “Kutta” on the broken statue and painted the words “Grandpie” and “Kutta” on the street and avenues outside the 111th Street temple.
Just two weeks after the effigy was torn down in another act of vandalism, a swarm of vandals destroyed the statue – although it is unclear whether the cases are linked.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement, “As alleged, the defendant along with several others committed a shameful act of violence against the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, a universal symbol of peace, unity and inclusivity. has been made.” “Hate and prejudice-motivated attacks have no place in our communities and my office will hold such perpetrators accountable.”
According to the Queens District Attorney’s office, Singh of Little Neck Road provided one of the getaway cars caught in surveillance footage.
Footage captured five men demolishing the statue, repeatedly hammering it, spray-painting and running down Liberty Avenue. The video showed some people riding a black Toyota Camry and some jumping into a Mercedes-Benz C-Class vehicle.
The Queens District Attorney said investigators were able to extract the Mercedes Benz plate number from the video and found it was registered in Singh’s name.
Singh was indicted at Queens Criminal Court on Sunday in one count of criminal mischief as a hate crime, another count of criminal mischief and one count of aggravated assault.
If found guilty, he could face up to 15 years in prison.
The act of vandalism shook the Hindu community in South Richmond Hill.
Pandit Maharaj, the temple’s founder, told the Queen’s Courier at the time of the incident, “It is very sad to know that Gandhi represents peace and someone will come and vandalize the idol by targeting him.”
Assembly member Jennifer Rajkumar – who represents the region and is the first Hindu-American elected official in New York state – said there are increasing incidents of hatred and prejudice against the local Hindu community.
In July, Rutgers University released a report that found “evidence of a sharp increase and evolving patterns of hate speech directed toward the Hindu community on multiple social media platforms.”
one in statement mondayPrince thanked Katz and the NYPD for the arrests and called on the alleged saboteurs to educate themselves.
“Today I do not demand severe punishment against the criminal who is caught, because Gandhi himself believed that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” she said. “With that spirit in mind, I call upon all those involved in this act of hatred to educate themselves about the mutual respect and inclusivity taught by Gandhi, and to embrace love in our hearts towards all.”
He said the Hindu community is “ready to embrace the suspects with open arms.”
“I invite the criminals to drop the hammer and join us for peace,” said the prince.