The vandalisation of Mahatma Gandhi's statue in Washington DC is disrespectful and such incidents do not bring people together, top US lawmakers have said. The statue, which is across the road from the Indian Embassy, was vandalised with graffiti and spray painting on Wednesday, prompting the mission to register a complaint with the local law enforcement agencies.
The incident happened during the week of nationwide protests against the custodial killing of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. The Trump campaign termed the incident "very disappointing", while US Ambassador to India Ken Juster apologised, saying sorry to see the desecration of the Gandhi statue.
The incident is reported to have taken place on the intervening night of June 2 and 3, officials said. "More evidence that violent radicals and run of the mill crazies have hijacked legitimate protests to create anarchy or for their own purposes," Senator Marco Rubio said on Thursday.
Vandalising Gandhi's statue outside the Indian Embassy has nothing to do with what the protests are about, the senator said. Protests against the custodial killing of Floyd turned violent in some places in the US and prestigious monuments were damaged. In Washington DC this week, protestors burnt a historic church and damaged monuments like the Lincoln Memorial.
"It's disgraceful to see the defacing of the Gandhi statue in DC," North Carolina Senator Tom Tillis said. "Gandhi was a pioneer of peaceful protesting, demonstrating the great change it can bring. Rioting, looting and vandalizing do not bring us together, he said.
The vandalized statue of Gandhi, the design of which was created by Gautam Pal, has been covered and efforts are on clean up the site at the earliest. "We condemn this disrespectful act and are working with the relevant authorities and the Embassy of India to rectify the situation," a state department spokesperson said.
"Very disappointing," tweeted Kimberly Guilfoyle, advisor to Donald J Trump for President Inc. and National Chair of the Trump Victory Finance Committees. Guilfoyle tweeted along with a quote of Gandhi: "Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization."
US Ambassador to India, Ken Juster said, "So sorry to see the desecration of the Gandhi statue in Wash, DC. Please accept our sincere apologies." "Appalled as well by the horrific death of George Floyd and the awful violence and vandalism. We stand against prejudice & discrimination of any type. We will recover and be better, he said in a tweet.
One of the few statues of a foreign leader on a federal land in Washington DC, the statue of Gandhi was dedicated by the former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in the presence of the then US president Bill Clinton on September 16, 2000, during his state visit to the US. An Indian Embassy spokesperson has said," Mahatma Gandhi statue at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Plaza in front of the Embassy was vandalized with graffiti/spray paint by unknown persons during the late hours of Tuesday, 2 June, 2020."
"The embassy has taken up the matter with the US Department of State for early investigation into the matter, as also with the Metropolitan Police and National Park Service," the spokesperson said. The embassy is working with the US Department of State, Metropolitan Police and National Park Service for expeditious restoration of the statue at the park.
According to the Indian Embassy website, the sculpture of Mahatma Gandhi is cast in bronze as a statue to a height of 8 feet 8 inches. It shows Gandhi in stride, as a leader and man of action evoking memories of his 1930 protest march against salt-tax, and the many padyatras (long marches) he undertook throughout the length and breadth of the Indian sub-continent.