A Hindu priest wearing religious attire was attacked near a temple in New York’s Queens area last week, United States news channel PIX 11 has reported. Swami Harish Chander Puri said he was repeatedly assaulted by a man, who approached him from behind, around 11 am on July 18. He suffered bruises all over his body, including his face.
“He was very angry,” the priest told the news channel. “I am in a little pain. Sometimes people have no control.”
Some of the devotees at the temple alleged Puri was targeted because of his dress. They claimed the attacker cried out “this is my neighbourhood” during the assault. A New York Police Department spokesperson said Puri was punched and hit with an object such as an umbrella.
The police have arrested 52-year-old Sergio Gouveia in connection with the case and charged him with felony assault and harassment in the second degree, CNN reported. Investigators said that at present they were not treating the incident as a hate crime. “I commend the NYPD [New York Police Department] for making a swift arrest in this case and I am confident that justice will be served,” said Representative of New York’s sixth congressional district Grace Meng. “I stand with the Hindu community and wish the victim a full recovery.”
She also called the attack “brutal and un-American”, and said the person who committed the crime was a coward. “People from across the globe call Queens home and we are proud to embrace this rich diversity that exists in our communities and neighborhoods.” Meng added.
The incident came a week after United States President Donald Trump asked four democratic Congresswomen of colour to “go back” to their countries. “So interesting to see ‘progressive’ Democrat congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump had said.
Days after his tweet, Trump’s supporters at a rally in North Carolina chanted “send her back” when the president mentioned Ilhan Omar, one of the four Congresswomen he had criticised.