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by Nandika Ravi

WARNING: this story contains graphic language

Police in York Region are investigating after a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was defaced at a temple in Richmond Hill on July 13. Reports are showing the statue had words written on it that said “rapist” and “Khalistan” (the name given to the concept of a Sikh-dominated separate state from India that independence activists have demanded for a long time). YRP is investigating the incident as a hate crime.

York Regional Police are investigating after a statue of Gandhi outside the Vishnu Mandir Hindu temple in Richmond Hill was defaced on July 13, 2022.

The statue, which is five meters high, was vandalized at Vishnu Mandir in the area of Yonge Street and Garden Avenue, according to York Regional Police.

The chairperson of the temple, Dr. Budhendra Doobay, was one of the first people to see the vandalized statue.

“Mid-day yesterday, someone came to me and said there are bad words written on the Gandhi statute,” Doobay said.

‘First of all I was so shocked. We were very hurt and upset about this. We didn’t know what to do, we put our thoughts together and first thing we did was to call the police.”

Gandhi, who is known as the ‘Father of the Nation’ in India, was one of the towering figures of the 20th century, and is still revered world over. He was seen as the main leader of India’s independence movement in the 1940s, through his non-violent civil disobedience to free India from British rule.

Anita Anand, the minister of national defence for Canada and a member of the temple, also took to Twitter to share her thoughts on this incident.

Doobay said that he was contacted by the Consulate General of India, which said that they’re going to investigate this and make sure that the Government of Canada takes action to prevent such hate motivated incidents from happening again.

The Consulate General said it is “distressed” and called it a “criminal, hateful act of vandalism.” The High Commission said it is “deeply anguished” and that the crime has led to “increased concern and insecurity” in the Indian community.

Don Patel, president of Humans for Harmony, who works with different Mandirs/temples in GTA, said, he’s “angry and frustrated by this low act.”

“There is no place for this kind of act in our society, here in Canada.”

“Whatever we have done to build the Canadian system by putting all those values together and enhance the community, so things like this will not only create division in the community but also hatred among people, which we cannot tolerate and should not be tolerated,” said Patel.

York Regional Police put out a statement saying that it recognizes the community-wide impact of hate crimes and vigorously investigates all occurrences of hate crime and hate bias incidents.

“We are committed to ensuring that all citizens feel that they belong and are part of an inclusive, welcoming community,” said Chief Jim MacSween.

“We will not tolerate hate in any form. Specially trained hate crime investigators are involved and this incident is being investigated thoroughly.”

The Mahatma Gandhi statue was unveiled at the Voice of Vedas grounds by David Peterson, the then Premier of Ontario, on May 15, 1988. Mr.V.P.Singh, Consul General of India, dignitaries from the Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments, heads of inter faith religious leaders and about 10,000 people witnessed this historic event.