A group of progressive Hindus in the United States on Sunday led calls for a swift investigation into the attack on a Hindu priest near a temple in New York’s Queens area last week.
“We are deeply heartbroken by reports of a brutal attack on Swami Harish Chander Puri ji, priest of the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple in Glen Oaks, Queens, NY,” Sadhana said in a statement. “Swami Puri ji was attacked on Thursday at 11 am by a man who reportedly screamed ‘this is my neighborhood’. Just a few weeks ago, Queens was declared the nation’s most diverse large county according to a new study of 2017 census data. It is deplorable that in a place as diverse as Queens, such an atrocity can occur.”
The group’s statement was supported by leaders from other faiths such as Reverend Dr Karyn Carlo of the American Baptist Churches, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of the Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, and Sikh community leader Simran Jeet Singh. It also invited all interfaith and community allies in Queens to stand with the priest. “Thankfully, Swami Puri ji is recovering, and is praying for the man who attacked him,” it added.
The coalition and those who signed its statement urged the New York Police Department to expedite its investigation into the attack. “The remarks uttered by Swami Puri ji’s attacker are a blatant example of hate speech,” the group said in its statement. “Thus, we urge the NYPD [New York Police Department] to investigate this matter as a hate crime.”
On July 18, Swami Harish Chander Puri was repeatedly assaulted by a man. According to some of the devotees at the temple, he was attacked because of his religious attire. 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. After the arrest, investigators said that at present they were not treating the incident as a hate crime.