On September 17 (local time), a man identified as 27-year-old Sukhpal Singh of Douglaston was arrested by the New York Police in the Tulsi Mandir desecration case that took place on August 16. The accused, along with his associates, had vandalized the Gandhi statue placed at a temple premised located in South Richmond Hill.
In a statement, the Police said, “On 9/17 an arrest was made, but our job is not done yet. We are following up on additional leads to bring EVERYONE responsible to justice for our Hindu community. The perpetrator was charged with felony Criminal Mischief as a hate crime.”
On 9/17 an arrest was made, but our job is not done yet. We are following up on additional leads to bring EVERYONE responsible to justice for our Hindu community. The perpetrator was charged with felony Criminal Mischief as a hate crimehttps://t.co/QWObnj3h7z pic.twitter.com/GWQ18jpgBJ— NYPD Hate Crimes (@NYPDHateCrimes) September 19, 2022
Earlier on August 19, the Police had released images from CCTV footage and urged the community members to help identify the attackers.
‼️ WANTED- Criminal Mischief at Hindu Temple ‼️— NYPD Hate Crimes (@NYPDHateCrimes) August 18, 2022
Please assist Hate Crime Task Force in identifying the following perpetrators. There were 2 incidents occurring at Tulsi Mandir in the South Richmond Hill section of Queens. Below are bulletins with preliminary information👇 pic.twitter.com/6XXG2vNGCh
Singh was arrested and charged with criminal mischief in the second degree as a hate crime and aggravated harassment in the first degree. They had smashed not only the statue but also spray-painted the temple area. The incident took place at around 3:30 AM on August 16. When the priest arrived at the temple premises early morning, he found the Gandhi statue smashed and the ‘Kutta dog’ written with spray paint.
The Police initiated a probe into the matter. During the investigation, with the help of CCTV footage, they found that Singh was involved in the crime alongside four others who are still at large. As per the reports, the miscreants toppled the statue at around 3 AM and hit it multiple times with a sledgehammer. The Police traced him back to one of the getaway cars the group had used, which was a Mercedes Benz C-Class registered under his name.
Singh, if convicted, might face prison time up to 15 years. He was presented in court on September 18 and was called back on October 17.
In a statement in August, the Police had said that the pattern of the attack was similar to that of the August 3 attack on the temple where the statue was toppled but not damaged to that extent. Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said in a statement, “As alleged, the defendant, along with several unapprehended others, committed a disgraceful act of violence against a Mahatma Gandhi statue that has become a universal symbol of peace, unity, and inclusivity. Hate and bias-motivated attacks have no place in our communities, and my Office will hold such perpetrators accountable.”
Following the first attack in August, Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-Woodhaven), in a press conference, denounced the attack. Katz, Mayor Adams, and community leaders were also present at the Press Conference. Following the arrest, Rajkumar issued another statement where she thanked the authorities for standing up against hate crimes.
She said, “This kind of interfaith and global unity is exactly what we need right now to defeat the forces of hate. Incidents of anti-Hindu hate have been increasing, with a study by Rutgers University finding that anti-Hindu sentiments are on the rise. The FBI’s hate-crime data explorer has also recorded several incidents of “anti-Hindu bias” around the country.”
I am pleased to report that one of the alleged perpetrators of the anti-Hindu hate crime at Tulsi Mandir has been arrested and charged.— Jenifer Rajkumar (@JeniferRajkumar) September 19, 2022
What began as a conversation between me and local Hindu leaders became a global movement that even drew support from the White House. 👇 pic.twitter.com/bbFzxOdDe1
Notably, she called for not punishing the culprits harshly in her statement. He said, “Today, I do not call for harsh punishment against the perpetrator apprehended, for Gandhi himself believed that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. In keeping with this spirit, I call for all those involved in this act of hate to educate themselves about the mutual respect and inclusivity taught by Gandhi and adopt love in their hearts towards all. Myself and the Hindu community are ready to embrace them with open arms. I invite the perpetrators to drop the sledgehammer and join with us in the cause of peace.”