New York, July 22: Top Indian diplomats in the US have expressed gratitude to the authorities for their support and quick action following the attack on a Hindu priest in the New York City borough of Queens.
Swami Harish Chander Puri, priest of the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple in Glen Oaks neighbourhood in the easternmost portion of Queens, was brutally attacked by a man who reportedly screamed "this is my neighbourhood".
Prominent US Congresspersons Grace Meng and Tom Suozzi strongly condemned the "heinous" attack, saying they stand in solidarity with the Hindu community and the borough of Queens is home to a diverse community from around the world.
India's Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla expressed gratitude to Meng and Suozzi for their support.
Consul General in New York Sandeep Chakravorty met the elderly Hindu priest Sunday, inquiring about his health and expressed his gratitude for the assailant's "quick arrest".
"Met with Swamiji of Shiv Shakti Peeth who was attacked by a miscreants. He is at home, recovering well and resumed his spiritual duties. Thanks to the Police for quick arrest of the assailant. Many thanks to @RepGraceMeng & @RepTomSuozzi & the Indian Community for their support," Chakravorty tweeted.
In a tweet, Shringla thanked Chakravorty "for meeting Swamiji and offering support and assistance. I thank @RepGraceMeng and @RepTomSuozzi for their support".
PIX11 reported that Puri had bruises and abrasions all over his body, including his face.
Suozzi, representing New York's 3rd Congressional District including parts of Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties, said on Twitter he "strongly" condemns the attack.
"I will continue to stand in solidarity with the Hindu community in my district and across America. May god grant Swami Ji strength, so he may fully recover," he said.
Meng, representing New York's 6th congressional district in the New York City borough of Queens, issued a statement strongly condemning the attack.
"I am disgusted over the violent attack on a Hindu priest in our borough. This type of brutal act is un-American and the person who committed this heinous crime is a coward," she said.
Commending the New York Police Department for making a swift arrest in the case, she expressed confidence that justice will be served.
"I stand with the Hindu community and wish the victim a full recovery," Meng said.
According to a report in PIX11, around 11 AM Thursday, near the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple, while Puri was walking down the street in his religious garb, a man came up from behind and started hitting him repeatedly. He was beaten so badly, he had to be rushed to the hospital.
Police arrested 52-year old Sergio Gouveia in connection to the attack. He is being charged with assault, harassment and criminal possession of a weapon. Police also said they are looking into whether this is a potential hate crime.
Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus also condemned the attack, saying "bigotry and xenophobia does not distinguish between Hindus and Muslims or black and brown skin".
The attack comes days after President Donald Trump took to Twitter this week to target four democratic congresswomen including Minnesota's Ilhan Omar, a Somali-born US citizen, prompting "send her back" chants from thousands at a rally in North Carolina days later.
Sadhana said "when the US President targets immigrants and refugees and encourages chants of 'send her back' at rallies, this results in real harm inflicted on our communities".
PIX11 reported that people who attend the temple believe the priest was targeted because of how he looks.
"He's wearing his religious clothes just walking around the block. We are concerned since yesterday what is going on in our neighbourhood," said worshipper Sanjeev Jindal..
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