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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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Impact commits $10M to supporting Indian American candidates

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Impact

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Indian American IMPACT, a political organization working to put Indian Americans in public office, announced a new $10 million commitment to support Indian American candidates nationwide. They also announced public interest lawyer Neil Makhija will be IMPACT’s new Executive Director. The number of Indian Americans in Congress has grown five-fold in just the past eight years.

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SEATTLE (Diya TV) — U.S. attorneys arrested serial Indian American entrepreneur Mukund Mohan on charges of allegedly defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program with fake and altered documents and embezzling more than $5.5 million in COVID-19 relief funds through six shell companies. Mukund Mohan was a former Microsoft and Amazon executive and is currently the CTO of BuildDirect.

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Apple manufacturer Foxconn has started building iPhone 11 units in a facility near Chennai in India. It’s the first time Apple has made one of its top-tier phones in India. India is the second-biggest smartphone market in the world, second only to China.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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India & China slowly move towards disengagement

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NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — India and China held virtual talks and agreed on a complete disengagement of troops along the line of control. But there remains sticking points in multiple areas along the border. India insists bilateral relations will not improve until “full peace and tranquility” are restored.

Police in Schenectady, New York are facing major scrutiny after footage was released of one of their officers applying a neck hold to 31 year old Yugeshwar Gaindarpersaud. He was treated and released, but he continues to face two charges of running away and resisting arrest. He’s accused of slashing his neighbors tire, causing $200 of damage. His attorneys are fighting to get prosecutors to drop the charges.

The UK Parliamentary Group, which visited Pakistan Administered Kashmir, and heavily criticized the Indian government for their recent constitutional change applying to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, acknowledged they received nearly $18,000 from the Pakistan Government to make the trip.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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