Indo-Canadians upset at continuing break-ins at Hindu temples | World News - Hindustan Times
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Indo-Canadians upset at continuing break-ins at Hindu temples

Feb 16, 2024 11:22 AM IST

The Indo-Canadian community has expressed dismay over the continuing spate of burglaries targeting Hindu temples in the province of Ontario.

The Indo-Canadian community has expressed dismay over the continuing spate of burglaries targeting Hindu temples in the province of Ontario.

Interior of the Vaishno Devi Mandir in Oakville after it was discovered burgled and vandalised earlier this week. (Courtesy Vaishno Devi Mandir)
Interior of the Vaishno Devi Mandir in Oakville after it was discovered burgled and vandalised earlier this week. (Courtesy Vaishno Devi Mandir)

The latest such episode occurred earlier this week at the Vaishno Devi Mandir in the city of Oakville. Late in the night on February 10 or in the early hours of February 11, unidentified persons burgled the temple, taking a substantial amount of cash from the donation boxes placed before the idols and also ransacked offices and even stole equipment used for recording video from the external and internal closed-circuit cameras installed for security purposes.

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The temple’s president Keshav Agnihotri said the community was shocked at the burglary. “Everybody is wondering why such a thing should happen at a religious place,” he said.

He said officers from the Halton Regional Police visited the temple after the burglary was discovered on Sunday and are investigating the crime. However, that hasn’t quelled rising concern within the community, as he said, “Our institutions are becoming a soft target.”

That view was shared by the National Alliance of Indo-Canadians which felt the continuing “targeted thefts and vandalism of Hindu places of worship” must be “condemned by all right-thinking Canadians.”

Community leader Ruchi Wali posted about the break-in on social media and asked when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or RCMP will “address this ongoing issue, & not treat it as a singular incident?”

In December, 41-year-old Jagdish Pandher, a resident of the town of Brampton, was arrested and charged by Durham Regional Police Service for his alleged involvement in multiple robberies at Hindu temples. At least six Hindu temples were broken into in the province since September last year, including the Devi Mandir in Pickering, Sankat Mochan Mandir in Ajax and the Hindu Mandir Durham in Oshawa and three temples in the GTA, the Chintpurni Temple in Brampton, Rameshwar Mandir in Caledon, and the Hindu Heritage Centre in Mississauga.

These burglaries follow a series of similar incidents in the GTA in late 2021 and into early 2022. There were at least 18 such break-ins. Four persons were arrested in March 2022 in connection with the burglaries that had caused concern within the Indo-Canadian community. Peel Regional Police or PRP identified one of those arrested as Jagdish Pander. The others were Gursharnjeet Dhindsa, Parminder Gill and Gurdeep Pandher. While the majority of the places of worship robbed and vandalized were Hindu temples, they also included Jain temples and Sikh gurdwaras.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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