A prominent Hindu temple was vandalised with anti-India graffiti in the U.S. state of California and the police are investigating the matter as a possible hate crime.
The City of Newark Police Department in Newark, Newark, California told PTI in an emailed statement that on Friday at approximately 8:35 a.m., they received a report of graffiti at the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple.
Officers responded and met with temple leaders who described the vandalism as meant to intimidate them.
“Based on the content of the graffiti it is believed that the defacement was a targeted act, and the vandalism is being investigated as a possible hate crime,” the statement said.
The Consulate General of India in San Francisco strongly condemned the defacing of the temple.
“We strongly condemn the defacing of SMVS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir at Newark, California with anti-India graffiti,” the Consulate posted on X.
“This incident has hurt the sentiments of the Indian community. We have pressed for quick investigation and prompt action against the vandals by the U.S. authorities in this matter,” the Consulate said.
According to images posted on social media, the word ‘Khalistan’ was spray-painted on a signpost outside the temple along with other objectionable graffiti.
Newark police further said that any acts or threats of violence, property damage, harassment, intimidation, or other crimes motivated by hate or bias are considered very serious and given very high priority. “Officers are investigating, collecting evidence, and reviewing surveillance footage from nearby businesses in order to establish the chain of events and bring those responsible to justice,” the police said.
The department said that “we stand united with our community and are urging community members with any information regarding this incident to come forward and speak with investigators.” The police are asking anyone with information regarding this investigation to contact the Newark Police Investigations Unit.
This is not the first instance where a temple has been defaced with such graffiti in the recent past by Khalistani separatists.
India has been asking its partner countries such as Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. to not give space to “extremist Khalistani ideology”.
Khalistan supporters have increased their anti-India activities after the death of Canada-based Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
India’s consulate in San Francisco in July came under an attack from Khalistan supporters who tried to set the diplomatic facility on fire.
The vandalism of the temple in Newark came close on the heels of allegations of an Indian official’s involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate a separatist Sikh leader in the U.S..
The Indian official has been linked by American prosecutors to an individual accused of conspiring to assassinate Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in the United States.
India has expressed concern over the matter and stated that appropriate action will be taken following the conclusions of an investigative panel examining the allegations.