Rupanjana Dutta Wednesday 10th July 2019 09:07 EDT

Britain’s Hindu diaspora have been left anxious and angry with increased incidents of vandalising of temples in the UK. In the last month alone there have been more than one incident at Shree Ram Mandir in Walsall. Temple leaders were left devastated after finding their sacred statues outside temple destroyed in a recent attack, with one’s face entirely broken off. Some of the statues were smashed during the first incident outside the temple at about 10am on June 10, before a second attack was carried out just nine days later at around 11pm. The temple, which also serves as a community centre, has been part of the area since the 1980s and has never suffered an attack like this before. But these have not been the only incidents. In the recent past a number of temples have been robbed and vandalised around London too.

Describing the incident after seeing the CCTV footage that recorded the attack, staff Jagu Patel reportedly said, “We saw some pictures on the CCTV footage of somebody coming in from the side and he came in with what looked like a cricket bat or a hockey stick.

“He hit the statue several times while speaking to one of his colleagues, who was sitting in his car. He then came back again and badly damaged some of the statues, running away with the face of one of the statues.

“We just want to know why the people who did this, did so. They don’t get anything from this and it just seems senseless. We’ve never had such incidents before and it’s very sad. We are a Hindu temple in a quiet area of Walsall and we feel that every person should live peacefully with heart and soul.”

The statues that were imported from India, are expensive and replacing them could cost the temple a fortune. While Mr Patel said they haven’t yet received any cost estimations yet, but he was sure replacing them had to be done through their contact in India and would cost a lot of money especially in shipping.

Representatives from the temple are in touch with the authorities and also urging the community for any kind of support.

A spokeswoman for West Midlands Police confirmed the attack, and said anyone with information is urged to contact police on 101, quoting crime reference 20WS/147794M/19 or 20WS/137218F/19.

HFB to host security conference 

Trupti Patel, the President of Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB) told Asian Voice that the Hindu Forum of Britain was created following a meeting of Hindu leaders when such an attack took place at Shree Vallabh Nidhi Temple in Wembley. The HFB has been at the forefront in seeking funding from the government for saving their places of worship from such attacks.

In the last year the HFB organised two security conferences in the UK in partnership with the Home office and UK police force to raise awareness of the threats facing the temples and the solutions of making them secure.

Mrs Patel has been in touch with the government officials after this incident and an emergency security conference has been planned in Tooting on 16 and 17 July. Officers from the Home Office are meant to attend the event and outline the procedure of how to apply for funding to improve safety of temples.

She told the newsweekly, “Hindus in the UK have always been hard-working integrated members of the UK society and it is sad that such attacks are taking place in the temples.”

In 2018, after attacks at the Shree Kutch Satsang Swaminarayan Temple in Kenton, Harrow on Tuesday and another at the Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Willesden where three Hare Krishna idols were stolen, Virendra Sharma MP asked Justice Minister David Gauke whether the cases would be treated as hate crimes and not just ignored by police as they “targeted people of one faith”.

He told The Hindu Newspaper, “Given the way society is developing, given the way some sections of society are going around and spreading hatred and intolerance in society, I strongly feel that people should keep open that possibility,” He pointed to a new First World War monument of a Sikh soldier that was vandalised last week, an incident that is being treated by police as “racially aggravated criminal damage”.

Home Office announces fourth round of protective security funding scheme

The Home Office has announced that the fourth round of the Places of Worship (POW) Protective Security Funding Scheme which is open for application till 31 August 2019. Over the last three years, and increasing hate crimes against places of worship such as temples, gurdwaras and mosques, the scheme was awarded to more than 130 places of worship with grants to install measures such as protective alarms, security lighting and access controls to protect their places of worship.

Home Office has made this year’s scheme easier to encourage more places of worship and associated faith community centres to apply. This includes removing the need for applicants to find their own quotes for security measures. Instead, applicants this time will benefit from a central supplier for assessments, quotes and installation. In addition the scheme is now open to faith community centres, and the eligibility criteria is broadened, so that applicants no longer need to show they have already been victim of hate crime. Instead the test will now assess vulnerability to hate crime.

The scheme is open to places of worship and associated faith community centres across England and Wales. For further details of the funding scheme and how to apply can be seen at:https://www.gov.uk/guidance/places-of-worship-security-funding-scheme.

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