Mahatma Gandhi’s statue in US defaced by ‘Khalistani elements’; anti-farm law supporters say protest “peaceful, non-violent”

Washington [US]: On Saturday during a rally to express solidarity with farmers who are agitating against the recently enacted agricultural laws in India, the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in front of the Indian Embassy was defaced and vandalised by certain “Khalistani elements”.

Posters and banners were seen pasted or propped up against the statue and a yellow flag was sighted draped over it. Some people were also seen waving “Khalistani” flags and raising pro-Khalistan slogans.

The Indian Embassy condemned the “mischievous act” by hooligans which it said “masqueraded as protesters.”

“The statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Plaza in front of the Embassy was defaced by Khalistani elements on 12 December 2020. The Embassy strongly condemns this mischievous act by hooligans masquerading as protesters against the universally respected icon of peace and justice.”

Mahatma Gandhi's statue in US defaced by 'Khalistani elements'; anti-farm law supporters say protest "peaceful, non-violent"

“The Embassy has lodged a strong protest with US law enforcement agencies and has also taken up the matter with the US Department of State for an early investigation and action against the culprits under the applicable law,” it added. Those who were part of the protest described it as “peaceful and non-violent”.

“This protest is not particularly against the government but in support of the farmers. It is against the current administration there. We see this bill as eradication of our culture,” Mansimran Singh, one of the organisers of the protest, told ANI.

“For me, we are just another group that supports the farmers. Where does Khalistan come from? In the last 35 years, you have seen this activism grow. Why doesn’t India ask that question to its own people or its own government as to why we have this. In America, when someone talks about secession we ask them why,” he said.

Speaking on the defacing of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue, he said, “In America, all confederate statues were vandalised and now they have been taken down. So why not him?”

Echoing similar opinions, Manmeet Singh, an activist, said that the protest held in front of the Embassy was “peaceful and non-violent”.

“We have been working on this issue for 14 years. I have personally witnessed the agrarian crisis like in Punjab and Maharashtra. Our protest was definitely a peaceful, non-violent protest,” he said.

Mahatma Gandhi's statue in US defaced by 'Khalistani elements'; anti-farm law supporters say protest "peaceful, non-violent"

On the Khalistan flags being spotted during the protest, he said, “The organisers will raise the Khalistan issue on another platform on another day. We want the media to concern on the farmers’ issue. This is not a regional issue.”

This is the second time this year that the Mahatma’s statue was defaced. On June 3 during the George Floyd protests, the statue was vandalised by unknown persons. Post the desecration, an expert was called in to refurbish the statue.

The statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on September 16, 2000, in the presence of then US president Bill Clinton.

Thousands of farmers from Punjab, Haryana and several other states have been protesting for the last 17 days at the borders of Delhi against the three newly enacted farm laws.

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