A New York-based Hindu priest was brutally attacked by a 52-year-old armed man after they had a verbal argument, according to the New York City Police Department, and New York news media have reported that the attacker shouted at the holy man dressed in religious grab, “This is my neighborhood.”
The attack was perpetrated at about 11:10 am on Thursday when Sergio Gouveia had an argument with Swami Harish Chander Puri, according to an NYPD officer. The attack happened not far from the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple in Glen Oaks, Queens, New York temple where Puri, 62, is a priest. The swami was walking down the street in his religious garb, according to police.
A man came up from behind the swami and started hitting him repeatedly, PIX 11 news reported. “People who attend the house of worship say they believe he was targeted, adding his attacker screamed things like, ‘This is my neighborhood,’ during the incident,” PIX 11 news reported
The NYPD officer did not disclose what kind of argument they had but told indica, “The victim and the person arrested had a verbal argument which turned physical.”
“The perpetrator then repeatedly struck the victim with an umbrella and punched him repeatedly causing lacerating to victim’s nose, head, chest, arms, and legs,” the officer told indica.
Gouveia was arrested immediately on Thursday and has been charged with felony assault and harassment, the NYPD officer said.
The Director of Communications at the Queens County District Attorney’s Office Ikimulisa M. Livingston told indica, “The defendant was arraigned on Friday. I do not have any further arraignment information at this time.”
Livingston said hate-crime changes have not been filed, and the case is still under investigation.
The NYPD officer told that hate-crime charges are filed depending on the circumstances, and the district attorney is looking at this case, the officer said.
An official comment was unavailable from the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple, but a man who answered a phone call told Indica the priest is busy and doing better now.
The complaint filed shows Gouveia is facing criminal charges on possession of a weapon, assault, and second-degree harassment.
However, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus have started a petition signed by various interfaith organization urging the NYPD to investigate an attack on Puri as a hate crime.
The petition states bigotry and xenophobia do not distinguish between Hindus and Muslims, or black or brown skin. When the U.S. president targets immigrants and refugees and encourages chants of “send her back” at rallies, this results in real harm inflicted on our communities.
“We are deeply heartbroken by reports of a brutal attack on Swami Harish Chander Puri Ji, priest of the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple in Glen Oaks, Queens, NY. Swami Puri Ji was attacked on Thursday at 11 am by a man who reportedly screamed: ‘this is my neighborhood.’ Just a few weeks ago, Queens was declared the nation’s most diverse large county according to a new study of 2017 census data. It is deplorable that in a place as diverse as Queens, such an atrocity can occur.
“Thankfully, Swami Puri Ji is recovering and is praying for the man who attacked him. We stand with this compassionate warm-hearted leader and the Shiv Shakti Peeth community and invite all of our interfaith and community allies in the Queens / New York City area to do so as well.
“We, Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, and the undersigned community partners and faith leaders, call upon the New York Police Department to conduct a swift investigation of this brutal attack against such a loving leader. The remarks uttered by Swami Puri Ji’s attacker are a blatant example of hate speech. Thus, we urge the NYPD to investigate this matter as a hate crime.”