- Condemning the incident, the Embassy of India has lodged a complaint with the U.S. Department of State for “early investigation and action against the culprits under the applicable law.”
Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in front of the Embassy of India in Washington, D.C., was defaced on Dec. 12, by a group of people protesting against the Government of India’s new farm laws. The Embassy has blamed “Khalistani elements” for the incident.
The vandalism broke out during a car rally in downtown D.C., organized by the Sikh American community to show support for the farmers protesting in India. A video posted on YouTube shows hundreds of Sikhs from Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, participating in the rally.
However, the peaceful car rally was hijacked by the separatist Sikhs who were carrying Khalistani flags with anti-India posters and banners which said they represent the Republic of Khalistan.
A video posted on Twitter by new agency ANI shows protesters flashing kirpans and jumping on the statues and draping a yellow Khalistani flag over tMahatma Gandhi’s head along with cardboard cutouts and placards pasted on it.
During the protest, many of the pro-Khalistan Sikh youths flashing jumped on the statue of Mahatma Gandhi and pasted a poster over it. The group was raising anti-India and pro-Khalistan slogans. Another group hung a dummy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s picture around the neck of the statue with a rope. PTI and ANI news reports say that Washington, D.C. Police and Secret Services were present when the incident took place.
A statement from the Embassy read: “The statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Plaza in front of the Embassy was defaced by Khalistani elements, on 12 December 2020. The Embassy strongly condemns this mischievous act by hooligans masquerading as protesters against the universally respected icon of peace and justice. The Embassy has lodged a strong protest with U.S. law enforcement agencies and has also taken up the matter with the US Department of State for an early investigation and action against the culprits under the applicable law.”
On June 26, President Donald Trump had signed an executive order on protecting American monuments, memorials, and statues and combating recent criminal violence, stating that an individual can be imprisoned for up to 10 years for destroying, damaging, vandalizing, or desecrating a monument, memorial, or statue within the U.S. or otherwise vandalizes government property.
The Mahatma Gandhi statue was unveiled by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the presence of President Bill Clinton on Sep. 6, 2000, after the U.S. Congress passed a law in this regard in 1998.
The statue was earlier vandalized on June 2 with graffiti and spray paint during the Black Live Matter protests against the custodial killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The Indian embassy has informed the state department and registered a complaint with local law enforcement agencies, which conducted an investigation into the incident. A few days after the incident, U.S. ambassador to India Ken Juster apologized for the desecration. “So sorry to see the desecration of the Gandhi statue in Wash, DC,” he tweeted. “Please accept our sincere apologies. Appalled as well by the horrific death of George Floyd & the awful violence & vandalism. We stand against prejudice & discrimination of any type. We will recover & be better.”