Indian Americans on Sunday held protest against the vandalism of a Mahatma Gandhi statue in California's Davis and demanded reinstallation of the statue.
In a statement by Deputy Chief Paul Doroshov of the Davis Police Department, the statue, broken off at the ankles and the top half of its head broken off, was found by a park worker around 9 am (local time) on Wednesday.
Stepping up in support of the Indian community at the vigil was the Mayor of Davis Gloria Partida who deeply regretted the incident. The mayor informed the protesters that they have initiated an investigation. "Vandalism will never be condoned. Mahatma Gandhi is our inspiration and We will not allow this. Not on our watch," the mayor added.
"Pro-Khalistan radical groups from neighbouring towns outside of Davis tried to intimidate the attendees in an attempt to stop the event and tried to assault a lady speaker at the event," Bhaskar Vempati, President of the Indian Association of Sacramento, one of the cohosts of the event told ANI.
"Police had to be called in to control the aggressive protestors. A police report has been filed on the incident of assault on the lady speaker," Vempati further added.
The Consulate General of India in San Francisco has separately taken up the matter with the City of Davis and local law enforcement authorities.
Speaking to ANI, Dr TV Nagendra Prasad, Consul General of India, San Francisco said, "The City Council has condemned the incident and issued a statement. I did take it up separately and the city council and police authorities assured me to bring the culprits to justice. They also allowed and provided security to the vigil by the community today."
Investigators are still unsure of when exactly the statue was torn down or what the motive may have been. "Seeing as it''s a cultural icon to a portion of the people in Davis, we are taking it very seriously," Doroshov said.
"If anybody from the public has any information as to who did this and why, we''d really like to hear from them," he added.
This act has triggered a massive outrage among the Indian-American community who demanded that the officials investigate it as an act of hate crime.
The 6-foot-3, 650-pound bronze Gandhi Statue of Peace has stood in the park since 2016. It was a gift from the Government of India. Five years ago, the installation was met with protests and outrage from residents and activists, who have accused Gandhi of genocide, racism and molestation.
MEA said that India strongly condemns the malicious and despicable act against a universally respected icon of peace and justice, adding that its embassy in Washington DC has taken up the matter with the US Dept of State for a thorough investigation and appropriate action.