A statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the city of Davis, California, was vandalised by unknown persons with the 6-feet-tall bronze statue discovered by park employees on 27 January broken up and sawed off from its base, reported PTI.
This act was condemned by several Indian-American groups on Sunday, 30 January, who expressed hope that the miscreants would be caught and brought to justice.
"Mahatma Gandhi, like many iconic figures who are globally revered for their leadership in just and noble causes, was not a perfect man. But vandalising and desecrating his statue is surely unacceptable in America, a nation that prides itself on the peaceful and democratic resolution of differences of opinion," Indiaspora said in a statement, quoted PTI.
The Indian-American community thanked the City of Davis for promptly starting a formal investigation, and added that "It is especially ironic that the statue of a leader who was among the foremost historical giants of nonviolent civil protest was torn down in this manner," noted PTI.
"Mahatma Gandhi was a champion of peaceful protests and vandalizing this revered soul's statue would not advance anyone's political agenda. Still, it will only play into the hands of those who want to bring polarization and division to our community," said the statement.
Indian-American Muslim Council noted that the act of vandalism has hurt the sentiments of “ millions of people in the United States who continue to be inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's struggle for peace, pluralism and justice,” reported PTI.
Ro Khanna, the White House React
Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna on Tuesday, condemned the desecration of the statue, calling it a “shameful act".
“At a moment in our history when disagreement needs to be managed with tolerance and patience, I urge everyone involved to take the time to listen and talk instead of resorting to acts of public vandalism,” he added, quoted news agency ANI.
Khanna also iterated that the act of destruction only underscored “the need for more people to study Gandhi’s teachings, not unilaterally erase him from the public discourse.”
Earlier on Monday, the White House had also reacted to the vandalism when White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki expressed concern over the incident during her daily news conference. “Certainly we would condemn that desecration and watch it closely,” Psaki said, PTI quoted.
MEA Strongly Condemns the Act
The Indian government, which had donated the statue to the city of Davis four years ago, has strongly condemned the attack on the statue. The Ministry of External Affairs has released a statement in which it states:
“The government of India strongly condemns this malicious and despicable act against a universally respected icon of peace and justice... The Mayor of Davis deeply regretted the incident and informed that they have initiated an investigation. The US Department of State has conveyed that this act of vandalism is unacceptable and expressed the hope that perpetrators will be brought to justice as quickly as possible.”
The Indian embassy in Washington has taken up the matter with the US Department of State, and the consulate general in San Francisco is following up with local authorities.
According to PTI, there had been protests at the time of the installation of the statue from “anti-Gandhi and anti-India organisations”. A group called the Organisation for Minorities in India (OFMI) reportedly spearheaded the protests and had launched a campaign for removing the statue after the city had voted to install it.
Indian-American groups such as the Friends of India Society International (FISI) and the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) have condemned the act of vandalism, PTI reports. Guaran Desai from the FISI claimed that OFMI and “other Khalistani separatists” had run hate campaigns against Indian icons.
The HAF has called upon the Department of Homeland security and the FBI to investigate the incident as a hate crime, “as it was likely done with the intention of intimidating the Indian-American community.”
PTI also reports that photos of the damaged statue were shared on a pro Khalistan separatist group from California on Twitter, and that in December 2020, “Khalistani supporters” had damaged a statue of the Father of the Nation in Washington DC in front of the Indian embassy there.
(With inputs from PTI and ANI.)