California: Unknown miscreants in United States reportedly desecrated the 6-ft tall, 650-pound (294 kg) bronze statue of Mahatma Gandhi, in the Central Park of the City of Davis in Northern California. The disfigured statue of Gandhi was found by a park employee in the early hours of morning of January 27, the police said.
The statue appears to have been sawed off at the ankles and half its face was severed and missing. The incident has shocked and outraged the Indian-Americans across the country, who are demanding to investigate it as an act of hate crime.
Meanwhile, investigators are still unsure of the motive behind it and the timing of this unpleasant incident when the statue was torn down.
“Seeing as it’s a cultural icon to a portion of the people in Davis, we are taking it very seriously,” Deputy Chief Paul Doroshov of the Davis Police Department was quoted saying.
The officials have removed the statue and stored it in a safe place until it can be evaluated, as per Davis City councilman Lucas Frerichs.
The bronze statue of Gandhi was donated by the Indian government to the city of Davis and was installed by the city council four years ago amidst protests from anti-Gandhi and anti-India organisations.
To note, the Organisation for Minorities in India (OFMI), which had then spearheaded these protests and opposed the installation of the statue and launched campaign to remove the Gandhi statue after the City of Davis had installed it.
Indian-Americans have expressed deep shock and anguish at the appalling incident.
“An atmosphere of hatred was being created by many anti-India and Hinduphobic radical organisations like OFMI and other Khalistani separatists for many years now,” said Guarang Desai of Friends of India Society International (FISI).
“They have not only run hate campaigns against Indian icons but have been at the forefront of attempts to push hinduphobia and erase India from California school textbooks,” Desai added.
In 2016, the OFMI was part of a campaign who wanted the authorities to remove the mentions of ‘India’ from the sixth and seventh grade California school textbooks and instead replace them with ‘South Asia’. However, after massive protests from parents and students, the California Department of Education had dropped the controversial changes.
Agonized by the unpleasant incident, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has demanded that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to investigate the incident as a hate crime.
“We condemn this cowardly desecration and call upon the Department of Homeland Security and FBI to investigate this hate crime, as it was likely done with the intention of intimidating the Indian American community,” said HAF California Advocacy Director Easan Katir, a former member of the Davis Business and Finance Commission.
“We urge local police to apprehend the perpetrators and call upon the city council to resurrect the statue as a statement that such destructive acts are not in harmony with our community standards,” Katir added.
“Make no mistake” HAF tweeted “this is not about legacy of Gandhi as a person, but about intimating India and Indian Americans.”.
The vandalism was praised on Twitter by a pro-Khalistan group in California, who shared the photos of the disfigured statue, and others who called it as “Today is a good day.”
To note, December last year had too witnessed such an act of violence when Khalistani-supporters had desecrated another statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Washington, DC in front of the Indian Embassy.