CA Temple Vandalized, Police Investigating It As Possible Hate Crime
NEWARK, CA (IANS) – A prominent Hindu temple was vandalized by pro-Khalistan elements, leaving the members of the community in shock.
The walls of Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in the Bay Area here were spray painted on December 22 with graffiti targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and eulogizing Khalistan leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
“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,” police said in a statement.
The State Department quickly condemned the vandalism stating, “We condemn the vandalism of Shri Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple in California. We welcome efforts by the Newark Police Department to ensure that those responsible are held accountable.”
Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents California’s 17th Congressional District located in Silicon Valley, in a social media post strongly condemning the “defacing” of the temple said, “Freedom to worship is at the heart of American democracy. Those who committed this act of vandalism must be held accountable.”
Adding that he was heartened that the community had come together to stand up against hate and remove the graffiti. “This community action is answering wickedness with goodness,” he said.
Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi termed the act as “despicable” and said he strongly condemns it. He too appreciated the community rallying in support of the mandir. “We must stand united against bigotry in all its ugly forms. Those who did this vandalism must be held accountable,” he said.
Rep. Shri Thanedar, who has founded the Congressional Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Jain Caucus, expressed his “profound condemnation of the disgraceful act of vandalism.” In a statement, he said he denounces “such attacks of intolerance and call for a thorough investigation into this heinous crime.”
“Whatever happened last night was a clear act of vandalism and violence against the Indian community,” Chintan Pandya, a member of the temple, told CBS News.
He said the incident is “concerning” as it is the first time the temple has seen something like this since its opening almost two years ago. “It is not safe for the community,” Pandya said, adding that the temple leaders will have a special meeting to discuss the incident.
“People who put those symbols and names up…what they are promoting is a separate state of Khalistan… So, if those people who did this want that, that’s something that I think most Americans, most Indians, most Hindus don’t want,” Mihir Meghani, co-founder of Hindu American Foundation, told CBS News.
Meghani said the Indian American community in the Bay Area is growing, and these political issues are now becoming a part of the division here.
The Consulate 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 US authorities in this matter,” the Consulate said.
This July, the Consulate General of India in San Francisco was vandalized and set on fire by what news reports called “pro-Khalistan protesters.”
On March 19, Sikh separatists also broke several windows. A few embassy workers were injured in the attack.
The Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA) said a thorough and urgent action is needed to address growing Hinduphobia in the region. “Freedom of religion means little when sacred spaces that are meant to be an oasis of peace and calm, are vandalized with no consequences. We are sad but not shocked — authorities, media, and other groups have regularly downplayed or ignored the growing #Hinduphobia in the region,” CoHNA said.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Newark Police Detective Sgt. Yama Homayoun at (510) 578-4920 or Yama.Homayoun@newark.org.