NEWARK, Calif. (Diya TV) — The Shri Swaminarayan Hindu Temple in Newark, California became the latest target of vandalism, with local authorities deeming it a possible hate crime. The defacement involved graffiti that invoked slain militant Sikh separatist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a leading figure of the Khalistan movement. This latest episode has drawn condemnation from lawmakers and community leaders alike.

Expressing condemnation, Representative Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) took to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, stating, “I unequivocally condemn this attack on Swaminarayan Mandir Hindu Temple in California. Hatred in all forms cannot be tolerated. Those responsible must be held accountable.” Joining the chorus, Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.) declared, “The defacing of the Swaminarayan temple in Newark, CA is despicable, and I strongly condemn it. We must stand united against bigotry in all its ugly forms. Those who did this vandalism must be held accountable.”

Local authorities, particularly the Newark Police Department, are treating the defacement as a targeted incident, with a keen focus on hate or bias motivations. The police are actively investigating, collecting evidence, and reviewing surveillance footage.

The incident triggered memories of past confrontations in the Bay Area, reflecting broader geopolitical tensions. Earlier this year, Khalistani Sikh protestors clashed with police at the General Consulate of India in San Francisco. Chintan Pandya, who is a temple leader, told CBS News Bay Area, “It’s not really safe for the community and for the city of Newark, because these incidents have been happening at other temples and other places as well.”

While the situation raises concerns about the safety of religious institutions, Mihir Meghani, co-founder of the Hindu American Foundation, highlighted the local implications of international conflicts. Meghani underscored the significance of symbols and names promoting the idea of Khalistan, a proposed breakaway state for the Sikh people, citing previous attacks on the Indian consulate in San Francisco.

Despite the shock and concern, the community remains resilient. Councilmember Mike Bucci assured the community of Newark’s dedication to resolving the matter, expressing disappointment over the incident and a commitment to uncovering the responsible party. Chintan Pandya emphasized the temple’s role as a place of prayer and support for the community, emphasizing unity in the face of adversity.