Published On: Sat, Mar 12th, 2022

Three Punjabi Canadians Arrested for a Series of Break-Ins in Hindu Temples in Toronto

Hindu temples have grown considerably large in numbers outside of India with a dramatic spike in immigration of Hindu South Asians to the West. With this population, migration came a lot of cultural and religious migration and creation in the West as well. There are Hindu temples in almost every city in the US and Canada. Hindus have attempted to recreate monuments of their spiritual traditions in a land away from home pouring in an enormous amount of time, treasure, and talent for the endeavor.

Within the last 4 months, there have been a series of attacks, vandalizations, and lootings at various Hindu temples in the Toronto, Canada. The looters did not stop at one or two temples but over 6 temples were affected with such incidents back to back. The looters did not just target Hindu temples but also Jain temples and Sikh Gurudwaras.

During the attacks, temples were visibly damaged with holes in walls, broken donation boxes, and other vandalization in the form of destruction of anything and everything that came in their criminal ways. The temple donation boxes were the major targets of these serial thieves. Alongside cash donations, they also targeted expensive jewelry of the sacred Hindu deities.

Hindu deities are traditionally adorned with ornate jewels and decorative garments. Hindus experience the divine in the sacred murtis (deities), so naturally, Hindus want to offer the best of the best to their beloved deities. The thieves disregarded this sacred sentiment Hindus have toward the sacred deities and the sacred temple that they felt it was normal to destroy and abuse the Hindu community’s sentiment toward this important aspect of the Hindu tradition.

Hindus have become targets of systemic temple lootings and constant abuse of thieves stealing temple property and donations. The suspects that were arrested were also from the South Asian community, so they were not unfamiliar with how temples are run. They were well aware of where the donations are kept and the value of the clothes and jewelry of the sacred Hindu deities.

The police are notifying that there were a total of 4 suspects, of which only 3 have been arrested. The police are still investigating further and are not in a concrete position to reveal if there was any element of hate crime in these systemic incidents. Another possibility is that the suspects were simply trying to steal money but the repeated nature of the incidents suggests there could be ulterior anti-Hindu motives at play, where the vast majority of temples targeted are Hindu temples.

The diaspora Hindu community has worked hard for years to build Hindu temples in a land far away from home. Hindu Canadians have struggled and persisted for decades to make Hindu temples into a reality. When cheap criminals make such temples a target, it hurts the collective sentiment of the Hindu community. Hindus in Canada are traumatized and afraid to go to temples due to fear of attacks from thieves.

It is the responsibility of every Hindu to talk about such incidents to spread awareness and help organize our community to raise funds and support for the renovation of the destruction as a result of these attacks. Installing tighter security infrastructure in the temples can also be useful, which the community itself has to take the responsibility to do with the help of their respective local law enforcement agencies. Hindus need to get out of the mindset that we can go to the temple every Sunday and have minimal negligent involvement. We have to understand the deities physically live in the temples and it is our responsibility to take care of them and their home.

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