Warning: This article contains language that some readers may find offensive.
Police and community members are asking the public to help search for a suspect or suspects who vandalized a large statue of Mahatma Gandhi at a Hindu temple in Richmond Hill on July 13.
York Regional Police are currently investigating the incident as a hate crime on the pedestal of a decades-old statue located at Vishnu Mandir – a Hindu temple at Yonge Street and Hwy. 7 — was spray painted on four sides.
Words such as “rapist” and “Khalistan” that were painted on the statue’s pedestal have since been removed.
“This is the first time something like this has happened on this property,” said Rani Sethi, a member of the Canadian Museum of Indian Civilizations. “Our organization is a peace-loving cultural institution and it is very disturbing to see something like this happen.”
As a cultural and religious organization located in Vishnu Mandir, CMIC is the first museum in North America dedicated to showcasing the essence and history of Indian culture.
Dr Budhendra Doobay, chairman of CMIC, said the Hindu community and beyond was shocked by the incident and hoped to bring the vandal(s) to justice soon.
A cash reward of $10,000 is currently being offered to gather information about the perpetrator(s), Doobay said.
“York Regional Police does not condone hate crimes in any form,” said Const. York Regional Police spokeswoman Amy Boudreau said.
“Those who victimize others because of their race, national or ethnic origin, language, color, religion, age, sex, gender identity, gender, sexual orientation or mental or physical disability will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” she noted.
The Consulate General of India in Toronto and the High Commission of India in Ottawa condemned the vandalism in statements on Twitter.
“We are deeply distressed by this hate crime which seeks to terrorize the Indian community. It has led to increased concern and insecurity in the Indian community here,” the Indian High Commission tweeted.
The Indian Consulate General tweeted that it was “distressed” by the desecration of the Mahatma Gandhi statue and that the vandalism “deeply hurt” the feelings of the Indian community in Canada.
The Vishnu Mandir started as a small house in 1981 by a few supporters from Guyana and Trinidad. In March 1984, the small version of Vishnu’s temple was completed in Richmond Hill. The famous Diwali Melas and Sunday services can accommodate up to twenty thousand devotees.
YRP investigators are looking for suspects and witnesses.
Anyone with information can contact the York Regional Police District No. 2 Criminal Investigations Office at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7241, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.