Several prominent US lawmakers and community leaders have strongly condemned the attack on a Hindu priest in New York, asserting that there is "zero tolerance" for hate or bigotry of any kind in the city.
Swami Harish Chander Puri was attacked by a man while he was walking down the street in his religious garb near the Shiv Shakti Peeth in Glen Oaks in the borough of Queens on July 18. The priest suffered bruises and abrasions all over his body, including his face, from the attack.
Police arrested 52-year old Sergio Gouveia in connection with the attack and charged him with assault, harassment and criminal possession of a weapon.
Describing the attack as "horrific", New York State Senator John Liu said that the fact that Puri was attacked while wearing his religious robe, so near his temple, evokes every fear that this was a hate crime.
"Tragically, I''ve seen too many attacks of this type to believe this was a random act of violence. We all stand together united in our resolve to denounce hate and to promote peace in this community," Liu said.
New York Attorney General Letitia James said there is zero tolerance for hate or bigotry of any kind in New York.
"This was a disgusting act of hate that is antithetical to our basic values and our fundamental belief that all are welcome here. The rich diversity of our city is what makes us great, and I stand with the Hindu community today and every day," James said.
New York State Senator Kevin Thomas, the first Indian-American to serve in the Empire State''s Senate, said he stands in solidarity with Puri and the Hindu community, underlining that such acts of violence have no place in New York''s communities.
District Leader in Queens Neeta Jain said that an attack on one individual is an attack on everyone, adding that America and the Indian community believes in love, peace, harmony and compassion.
"We are one community and we believe in Unity," she said.
Some of the people who regularly visit the temple said they believe the priest was targeted. The attacker screamed things like, "this is my neighborhood," during the incident, they said.
The incident happened days after US President Donald Trump took to Twitter to target four democratic congresswomen, including Minnesota''s Ilhan Omar, a Somali-born U.S. citizen, asking them to "go back" where they came from.
US Congresspersons Grace Meng and Tom Suozzi had also strongly condemned the "heinous" attack, saying they stand in solidarity with the Hindu community and the borough of Queens is home to a diverse community from around the world.
India's Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla expressed gratitude to Meng and Suozzi for their support.
Shortly after the incident, Consul General in New York Sandeep Chakravorty met the priest to inquire about his health.
"Met with Swamiji of Shiv Shakti Peeth who was attacked by a miscreant. He is at home, recovering well & resumed his spiritual duties. Thanks to the Police for quick arrest of the assailant. Many thanks to @RepGraceMeng & @RepTomSuozzi & the Indian Community for their support," Mr Chakravorty tweeted.
New York State Senator Leroy Comrie too deplored the "senseless and brutal violence that Puri endured while walking through his own neighbourhood"
"Despite the deplorable actions of his attacker, Swami Ji has remarkably demonstrated to us all what it means to be forgiving and compassionate," Comrie said.
Assembly members Ed Braunstein, Nily Rozic, Clyde Vanel and David Weprin and Council members Barry Grodenchik and I Daneek Miller also expressed solidarity with Puri.
Co-founder and Board Member of advocacy group Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus Aminta Kilawan-Narine said racist, anti-immigrant and Islamophobic rhetoric in the country must be denounced.
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