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Sikh temple vandalized, holy book desecrated

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Subarna Nagra, a member of the Sikh Temple of Spokane, gathered with community leaders to condemn an act of vandalism against the house of worship. Photo/Jake Thomas

Subarna Nagra, a member of the Sikh Temple of Spokane, gathered with community leaders to condemn an act of vandalism against the house of worship. Photo/Jake Thomas

SEATTLE, (Diya TV) — A man faces charges of hate crimes after Spokane law enforcement officials said he vandalized a local Sikh temple and desecrated the temple’s holy book. The man mistakingly thought the temple was a Mosque, and affiliated with the Islamic State group terror organization, according to police — the actions were immediately met with outcry from the town’s community leaders on Thursday.

Jeffrey C. Pittman, 44, was arrested Thursday morning inside of the temple, located at 1420 N. Barker Road in Spokane, after a brief altercation with local police. He was wearing no clothing and was holding a ceremonial sword which belongs to the temple, police said. He originally told police he broke into the temple through an open door on the side of the building because he was cold and hungry.

Upon entrance, Pittman became convinced the temple was actually a mosque, connected to the terrorist group ISIS.

Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich, joined by two mayors, three city council members and figureheads of other faiths in the community, held a joint press conference in which the man’s actions were publicly condemned.

“No hate will be tolerated in Spokane County,” Knezovich said during the press conference.

Also in attendance was Spokane mayor, David Condon. He spoke candidly on the subject, quick to defend the morals and ethics of Sikhs in his community by saying, “Sikh values are intrinsic to who we are.” Rod Higgins, mayor of Spokane Valley, added, “This is not who the people of the Valley are. … I hope justice will be swift.”

Pittman was booked into Spokane’s county jail, and charged with armed burglary, malicious mischief and malicious harassment based on religious discrimination – Washington’s version of a hate crime. While he was inside, approximately $30,000 worth of damage was done to the temple, according to its officials.

“Our hearts are broken,” said Subarna Nagra, a member of the temple.

Gurjeet Singh Aujla, the priest at the temple, said the temple’s Sikh holy book was defaced and pages were ripped from it — the altar and bedding were also vandalized. The holy book contains the accumulated teachings of the first through 10th Sikh gurus. Each morning, the book is opened and the priest selects a passage which becomes the focus of prayer and meditation for that day.

Sikhism originated in India, and has about 20 million adherents globally — Spokane’s community consists of roughly 300 Sikhs, according to Nagra. In an effort to repair the damage and replace items for the temple, which can be viewed in the below video, Nagra has created a gofundme account to raise money.

Nagra continued by thanking the steadfast efforts of the Spokane-area police, and while speaking on behalf of the Sikh Coalition, said the authorities have the complete trust and full support of the Sikh community.

“When hate crimes occur, we must investigate and prosecute them accordingly because that is one meaningful way in which Americans are forced to acknowledge the problem for what it is,” Nagra said.  “We thank the Spokane police department, the Spokane Valley police department and Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich for acting quickly and taking this case so seriously. We trust that they will finish their investigation into the motivation and the District Attorney will act fairly.”

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Indian Americans jump into congressional races

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Indian Americans jump into congressional races | Diya TV News

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — The latest numbers show more Indian Americans than ever are running for Congress. In the last six years, nearly 80 candidates made it on the ballot, soaring far beyond numbers seen in past elections. Leading the wave are successful candidates from California, like Kamala Harris, who rose from a Senate seat to become vice president. Helping those numbers, Indians Americans are also one of the fastest growing ethnic groups in the country.  

Nisha Ramachandran is the new Executive Director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, the first Indian American to serve in this role.  Ramachandran most recently managed her own consulting business focused on AAPI advocacy. She’ll be working closely with Congresswoman Judy Chu who chairs the group to further Asian American causes and initiatives. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the people of Telangana after the Kakatiya Rudreshwara Ramappa Temple was inscribed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The PM also urged citizens to visit the temple which was built during the rule of the Kakatiya dynasty.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Blinken begins India visit, Afghanistan top issue

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Blinken begins India visit, Afghanistan top issue | Diya TV News

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — US secretary of state Antony Blinken begins his two-day India visit on Tuesday hoping to engage the nation on issues such as the Covid-19 response, human rights, and democracy. The American troop pullout in Afghanistan will also be a key issue. India is concerned about the implications of the withdrawal and the need for sustained pressure on Pakistan over issues like terror financing.

And India’s first medal at the Tokyo Olympics goes to Mirabai Chanu. She won silver in Women’s weight lifting. Chanu’s Olympic preparations were hindered by injuries and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic but she still beat the odds and is being praised back home.

Tesla may open a factory in India. But CEO Elon Musk says only if the cars receive a good response in that marketplace. The company has already been hiring talent in the country. But Musk also hinted at some downsides to opening overseas, citing India’s import duty tax is the highest in the world for a large country.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Shrina Kurani announces CA congressional campaign

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Shrina Kurani announces CA congressional campaign | Diya TV News

SACRAMENTO (Diya TV) — Indian American Democrat Shrina Kurani is running for Congress in California’s 42nd district and is preparing to take on 15-year Republican incumbent Ken Calvert. Kurani is a mechanical engineer and entrepreneur and says she’s running to create more sustainable jobs in her community and to take on the status quo in Washington DC.

More than 30 interfaith organizations in the U.S. are urging the State Department to sanction India and designate it as a country of “particular concern”. Their resolution claims that the Indian government is promoting policies that lead to the persecution of religious minorities, especially Muslims.
Despite growing concern over rising Covid-19 cases in Japan, the 2021 Tokyo Olympic opening ceremony got underway. India is sending its largest ever contingent to the Olympics with120 athletes competing across 85 events.  The country hopes to win medals for shooting, wrestling, boxing, archery and badminton.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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