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'Shameful Act': Indian-American Congressman Condemns Vandalisation of Mahatma Gandhi Statue in California

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The 6ft tall, 650pound (294 kg) bronze statue of Gandhi in the Central Park of the City of Davis in Northern California was vandalised, broken and ripped from the base by unknown miscreants early this week.

Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna on Monday strongly condemned the vandalisation of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the US state of California, calling it as a shameful act. The 6-ft tall, 650-pound (294 kg) bronze statue of Gandhi in the Central Park of the City of Davis in Northern California was vandalised, broken and ripped from the base by unknown miscreants early this week.

"Nonviolent, respectful protest was the essence of Gandhi's life mission. To see the desecration of this magnificent statue only underscores the need for more people to study Gandhi's teachings, not unilaterally erase him from the public discourse," Khanna said. "This was 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 said.

As the Democratic Vice Chair of the India Caucus, Khanna said he will continue to work with his colleagues to build bridges across these divisions. I encourage everyone to join me in working through disagreement with dialogue and discussion, rather than resorting to violence that tears at the fabric of our society, he said. Meanwhile, two groups gathered at the park in Davis on Sunday where the statue was vandalized, local media reported. While one group demanded that the statue be restored, the other opposed such a move.

The City of Davis has launched an investigation into the incident. "The City of Davis condemns the vandalism that destroyed the statue of Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi in Central Park. We do not support any actions that include the destruction of property, the city said in a statement on Sunday. We understand that our community reflects a diversity of views and values, but we expect that everyone will extend respect to each other and to shared spaces," it said. "But we reiterate our belief that the solution to solving such differences is never in violent acts but through compromise and dialogue. It is our sincere desire that our community move forward with peaceful and positive discourse and reconciliation," the city said in its statement.

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Several Indian-American organisations on Sunday strongly condemned the violent toppling of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the US state of California and expressed hope that those responsible for the despicable act will be brought to justice. The 6-ft tall, 650-pound (294 kg) bronze statue of Gandhi in the Central Park of the City of Davis in Northern California was vandalised, broken and ripped from the base by unknown miscreants early this week.

"We call upon the City of Davis to immediately commence a thorough process to bring the perpetrators of this act to justice and reinstall a statue that pays homage to this apostle of peace", Indiaspora said in a statement. "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," Indiaspora said. In 2016, the Davis City Council voted to proceed with the installation of Gandhi's statue in the city's Central Park. The statue of Gandhi, which was donated by the Indian government to the city of Davis, was installed by the city council four years ago amidst protests from anti-Gandhi and anti-India organisations. Any subsequent decision to the contrary, if at all, should have been arrived at via nonviolent and democratic means, Indiaspora said.

"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. Strongly condemning the desecration and destruction of the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Davis's town in California, Indian National Overseas Congress said that it is more hurtful to see that the miscreants who had done this despicable act on the eve of January 30th, the day when Mahatma Gandhi paid the ultimate sacrifice for every Indian citizen's freedom.

"We are grateful to the City of Davis for starting a formal investigation and hope that the perpetrators who have done this horrible deed will be found and prosecuted to the full extent of the law," INOC said. "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," it said.

Indian American Muslim Council said that the heinous act has hurt the sentiments, not just of the Indian American community, but millions of people in the United States who continue to be inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's struggle for peace, pluralism and justice. In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs said the US Department of State has conveyed that the act of vandalism is unacceptable and expressed the hope that the perpetrators will be brought to justice as quickly as possible.

first published:February 01, 2021, 18:05 IST