India on Saturday criticised the vandalising of a Mahatma Gandhi statue in the United States, calling the incident a “malicious act” against an icon of peace.

The statue in California’s Davis city was found toppled on Wednesday morning, according to local news website Davis Enterprise. Half of the statue’s face was missing and it seemed to have been sawed off at the ankles.

The Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that India had gifted the statue to Davis city in 2016. “The Government of India strongly condemns this malicious and despicable act against a universally respected icon of peace and justice,” the ministry said.

The foreign ministry added that the Indian embassy in Washington DC had discussed the matter with the US Department of State and pressed for strict action against the culprits. “The Consulate General of India in San Francisco has separately taken up the matter with the City of Davis and local law enforcement authorities, which have initiated the investigations,” ministry said.

It added: “The Mayor of Davis deeply regretted the incident and informed that they have initiated an investigation. Local Indian community organisations have condemned the act of vandalism.”

The US said that the incident was unacceptable and promised to take swift action against the perpetrators.

Members of the Indian-American community also expressed outrage over the incident. The Hindu American Foundation demanded that the incident be investigated as an instance of hate crime, PTI reported. The organisation said that the culprits intended to intimidate the Indian-American community.