Hate Crimes

Vandalism of US Hindu temple is latest of several similar attacks in the West

Attacks have been reported from several Hindu temples in North America, the UK and Australia over the past five years.

Barely two weeks after a Hindu temple near Seattle, Washington, was vandalised, another temple has come under attack in the United States.

On the night of February 26, the Sanatan Dharma temple of Kent – just 30 kms from Seattle – was attacked with bricks by unknown miscreants, who broke all the glass windows of the structure, damaged part of the main building and painted the word "fear" on the wall.

The incident shocked residents of the region as it came close on the heels of the February 15 attack on the Hindu Temple Cultural Centre in Bothell near Seattle, when miscreants spray-painted the words "Get out" along with a swastika symbol on the outer wall. Although local Hindus were concerned that the attack might have been deliberately carried out two days before the festival of Mahashivratri, the police also found the words "Get out Muslims" sprayed on the wall of a school nearby. The police suspect the same vandals might be involved in both cases.

It was only in June 2013 that a rise in such incidents in the past few years has prompted the US Department of Justice to record anti-Hindu crimes as a separate category.

Over the past few years, attacks on Hindu temples have been reported across the Western world, but the suspected motives have been varied. Here are some from the recent past.

Georgia, US, August 2014
In 2013, the air conditioners of the Vishwa Bhavan Mandir in Monroe, Georgia, were vandalised. A year later, in August 2014, unknown attackers broke into the same temple, painted its Shiva statue black and spray-painted expletives and words like "Lol" and "ha ha" on the walls. Since a group of trailer homes and a Jehovah’s Witness community hall in the vicinity of the temple were also attacked, the local police suspect it was the work of local unruly youth.

British Columbia, Canada, June 2013
The Laxmi Narayan temple in Surrey, British Colombia, was left with broken windows after an attack on June 23, 2013, in what Hindus termed as a hate crime. Nothing was stolen from the premises of the shrine, no attempt was made to break into the building, but video footage of the night of the attack revealed a group of men smashing the windows with baseball bats. Reports later claimed that a bat with a "Sikh last name" was found near the temple. The World Sikh Organisation of Canada publicly condemned the attack.

London, UK, May 2013
A fire that broke out at the Adhya Shakti Mataji temple in Hillingdon, London, was suspected to be a case of arson after firefighters found traces of accelerant fuel at the site. Three weeks after the incident, the London police released CCTV footage of the suspected arsonist, while community members were left fearing more attacks.

Copenhagen, Denmark, December 2011
A Hare Krishna temple in Copenhagen was attacked by a group of young people on a late December evening, at a time when devotees were still praying inside. The attackers first threw stones at the facade and broke a window, and later attempted to break into the temple armed with clubs and baseball bats, breaking more windows and attacking the garden. Although there was no physical confrontation between the attackers and devotees, the former had left before the police came on the scene. Devotees claimed that the attackers appeared to be Muslim.    

New South Wales, Australia, March 2011
On the night of March 19, 2011, masked gunmen fired shots at Australia’s oldest Hindu temple, the Sri Mandir in Auburn, New South Wales, in an incident that left bullet marks on the walls but caused no casualties or injuries. The shooting rattled local Hindu residents, who claimed that the same temple had been attacked several times since 2004. In the mid-2000s, Australia had witnessed a number of attacks on immigrant Indians, and the temple shooting left the local community in a state of panic.

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Attitudinal barriers

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Participants of the program.
Participants of the program.

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We spent a lot of money for treatment and travel. We visited Shivamogha Manasa and Dharwad Hospital for getting treatment. We were not able to continue the treatment for long as we are poor. We suffered economic burden because of the long- distance travel required for the treatment. Now we are getting quality psychiatric service near our village. We are getting free medication in taluk and Primary Healthcare Centres resulting in less economic stress.

— A parent's experience at an APD treatment camp.

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To mark World Mental Health Day, 2017, a team from TLLLF lead by Deepika Padukone visited program participants in the Davengere district.

Sessions on World Mental Health Day, 2017.
Sessions on World Mental Health Day, 2017.

In the face of a mental health crisis, it is essential to overcome the treatment gap present across the country, rural and urban. While awareness campaigns attempt to destigmatise mental disorders, policymakers need to make treatment accessible and cost effective. Until then, organisations like TLLLF and APD are doing what they can to create an environment that acknowledges and supports people who live with mental disorders. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.