"Incident hurt sentiments of Indian community": Consulate in San Francisco condemns defacement of Hindu temple in Newark

World Saturday 23/December/2023 08:19 AM
"Incident hurt sentiments of Indian community": Consulate in San Francisco condemns defacement of Hindu temple in Newark

San Francisco : Condemning the defacement of the Swaminarayan Mandir at Newark, California, with anti-India graffiti, the Indian Consulate in San Francisco on Saturday said the incident has hurt the sentiments of the Indian community.

Calling for quick investigation and prompt action into the matter from the US authorities, a post on the official X handle of the Consulate General of India in San Francisco read, "We strongly condemn the defacing of SMVS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir at Newark, California with anti-India graffiti. This incident has hurt the sentiments of the Indian community. We have pressed for quick investigation and prompt action against the vandals by the US authorities in this matter."

Suspected pro-Khalistan activists allegedly defaced the Swaminarayan temple in Newark, California, according to the police. The incident came to light on Friday (local time).

The exterior wall of the Hindu temple was defaced with anti-India graffiti. The Newark Police Service has started an investigation into the vandalism.

According to the temple administration, the incident took place on Thursday night.

"One of the devotees, who lives close to the shrine, discovered anti-Hindu and anti-India graffiti in black ink on an exterior wall of the building, and the local administration was immediately informed," Bhargav Raval, the spokesperson for the temple administration, told ANI.

The spokesperson added the temple authorities were 'shocked' to find the anti-Indian graffiti on its wall.

Shedding more light into the incident, Jonathan Arguello, a police captain for the city of Newark, said the 'targeted act' was being investigated.

"Based on the graffiti, we believe it was a targeted act, and it's going to be investigated with full thoroughness. I can also tell you that as a member of the Newark Police Department and the Newark community, we're deeply saddened when these types of acts occur, and we think they're senseless and they have no room. We won't tolerate them here in Newark. So today, I wanted to make sure that you understand how seriously we take these situations and know that we will investigate as thoroughly as possible with utmost care and sensitivity. I can also tell you that officers are currently investigating this via evidence collection," the captain told reporters during a press conference.

The police official said to piece together the chain of events leading to the act of defacement, the footage from surveillance cameras in the neighbouring residences were being looked into.

This is not the first such incident where a temple has been defaced with such graffiti in the recent past.

The incident comes close on the heels of the US Justice Department unsealing an indictment against an Indian national for his alleged involvement in a foiled plot to assassinate India-designated terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil.

The Justice Department claimed that an Indian government employee (named CC-1), who was not identified in the indictment filed in a federal court in Manhattan, recruited an Indian national named Nikhil Gupta to hire a hitman to carry out the assassination, which was foiled by US authorities, according to prosecutors.

Gupta is currently in custody and has been charged with murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta on June 30, pursuant to the bilateral extradition treaty between the US and the Czech Republic.

Reacting to the Justice Department's indictment, the Ministry of External Affairs said the case filed against an individual in a US court, allegedly linking him to an Indian official, was a "matter of concern" and is contrary to government policy.

"We cannot share any further information on such security matters. As regards the case against an individual that has been filed in a US court allegedly linking him to an Indian official, this is a matter of concern. We have said and let me reiterate that this is contrary to government policy" the MEA spokesperson said.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who was declared a 'designated individual terrorist' by the Government of India on July 1, 2020, has been actively exhorting Punjab-based gangsters and youth over social media to fight for the cause of the independent state of Khalistan, challenging the sovereignty, integrity and security of the country, NIA investigations have shown.

Pannun has been under the NIA lens since 2019 when the anti-terror agency registered its first case against him.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi responded to the claims made by the US, saying he would 'look into' any evidence, adding that 'few incidents' would not affect US-India ties.

"If someone gives us any information, we would definitely look into it," PM Modi said in an interview with the UK-based newspaper Financial Times.

"If a citizen of ours has done anything good or bad, we are ready to look into it. Our commitment is to the rule of law," Prime Minister Modi added.

Earlier, Khalistanis allegedly attacked the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. Videos of supporters breaking the doors and barging into the office surfaced on social media.

Visuals shared online showed a mob brandishing Khalistan flags mounted on wooden poles, using them to smash the glass doors and windows of the consulate building.

They raised pro-Khalistan slogans as they broke through makeshift security barriers raised by the city police and installed two Khalistani flags inside the premises.

In another related incident in Canada, a Hindu temple was defaced by extremist elements with Khalistan referendum posters in August. The incident happened in British Columbia province in Canada.