The United States on Tuesday condemned the desecration of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue outside the Indian Embassy in Washington, PTI reported.

“It’s terrible. No statue or memorial should be desecrated and certainly not one like that of Gandhi, who really fought for the values that America represents of peace, justice, and freedom,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a press briefing on Tuesday. “It is appalling that it has happened more than once and we believe the reputation of Mahatma Gandhi should be respected, especially here in America’s capital.”

This is the second such incident in less than six months. A group of people protesting against the Indian government’s farm laws in Washington DC had defaced the statue on December 12. The first incident of vandalism was reported in June, after miscreants defaced it with graffiti and spray paint.

On Tuesday, a US Department of State spokesperson said that it takes the responsibility of providing safety and security of foreign missions in the US “very seriously” and was discussing the matter with the Indian Embassy.

After the desecration, the Indian Embassy blamed “Khalistani elements” for the incident. On December 12, hundreds of Sikhs from Maryland, Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania and other American states had taken out a car rally to the Indian Embassy in downtown Washington DC to show support for the farmers protesting in India.

Soon, people carrying Khalistani flags joined the protest. They shouted anti-India slogans and pasted a poster over Gandhi’s statue. A video from the site of the protest also showed a Khalistan flag draped over the statue. Another group hung a dummy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s picture around the neck of the statue with a rope. The Washington DC Police and Secret Services were present when the incident took place.

Indians living abroad, especially in the US and Canada, have been holding protests to show solidarity with the agitating farmers.

Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting at key entry points to Delhi for 21 days against the farm laws. The farmers fear the agricultural reforms will weaken the minimum support price mechanism under which the government buys agricultural produce, will lead to the deregulation of crop-pricing, deny them fair remuneration for their produce and leave them at the mercy of corporations.

The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies.