Latest attack on places of worship: 6 murtis destroyed

GOODBYE: Devotees of the Bharatiya Vidya Abhyas Mandali temple on Watts Street, Curepe say goodbye to a murti of Lord Shiva, which was destroyed by vandals on Wednesday morning. The murti was donated to the temple 32 years ago and had to be removed after the attack.  - AYANNA KINSALE
GOODBYE: Devotees of the Bharatiya Vidya Abhyas Mandali temple on Watts Street, Curepe say goodbye to a murti of Lord Shiva, which was destroyed by vandals on Wednesday morning. The murti was donated to the temple 32 years ago and had to be removed after the attack. - AYANNA KINSALE

Devotees at the Bharatiya Vidya Abhyas Mandali in Curepe were left heartbroken when vandals destroyed six murtis on their temple grounds on Wednesday morning.

The temple's treasurer Zolika Ramdehal told Newsday the vandals caused $100,000 in damage.

An upset Ramdehal spoke with Newsday via phone after the temple located at Watts Street, Curepe, was vandalised early Wednesday morning. She said the incident happened between 4 and 5.30 am.

She said devotees showing up for morning worship made the discovery.

"That is what they were greeted by, they have destroyed more than the temple, they have taken something sacred, words cannot express how we feel."

Two murtis destroyed during the attack were of Lord Shiva and Lord Hanuman. Those two broken murtis were left at the temple's entrance.

One of the murtis at the Bharatiya Vidya Abhyas Mandali temple in Watts Street, Curepe that was destroyed by vandals on Wednesday morning. - Photo courtesy SDMS

"Lord Shiva was given to us 32 years ago by an elderly woman, it was the first murti on the ground. They destroyed a piece of history, (the) Hanuman (murti) was also donated. People give donations out of love and devotion."

She said the vandals did not try to break into the temple and she believes their sole intent was to destroy the murtis.

"They just aimed for their heads, the temple's sanctity has been violated."

Ramdehal said there are no CCTV cameras on the premises, and they were in the process of installing cameras in June.

"Even if we had cameras, they would have still done what they did, in the end, only the Lord knows why."

Asked what, if anything, she had to say to the criminals, she said, "I don't know what I want to say or do; they have to live with what they did; it has to eat their inside."

She said the murtis welcomed worshippers and made devotees feel safe every Sunday.

"That feeling of safety and familiarity has been destroyed; we need to do something as a country about crime."

Ramdeha called for the Minister of National Security to increase police patrols in the area. She called the hours when the attack occurred "peak waking time" for people going to work.

She said this is the first time the temple has been attacked and she hopes it will be the last.

"We have all heard and seen the story of attacks on religious sites, not knowing it would hit home. For us, the temple is our second home."

A Hanuman murti was among six destroyed by vandals at the Bharatiya Vidya Abhyas Mandali temple in Watts Street, Curepe. - Photo courtesy SDMS

When Newsday visited the temple's grounds around 6.30 pm, the sound of iron and stone being ground away was heard from outside the temple walls as some neighbours sat in their galleries and others stood near their gates, looking on.

Inside, members of the temple were busy removing the remaining damaged murtis as a pile of broken murti heads lined the right wall. A group of women seated on a bench at the temple entryway looked on at the decapitated murti of Lord Shiva.

His would be the last murti removed from the compound, as it was the oldest on the temple's grounds. Accompanying the women were their children, who also sat quietly as a group of men chiselled away at another headless murti.

Temple treasurer Olive Ramsaran told Newsday she was heartbroken and at a loss for words over the "senseless act.

"The murtis cannot be fixed, they must be removed."

She showed Newsday the temple walls, which had barbedwire at the top and questioned what else could be done to secure the ground.

"What is to stop this person from doing this to another religious place or, worse, to somebody? I pray they find whoever is responsible for this quickly and get them off the street."

She commended the police for their work and she echoed Ramdehal’s call for increased police presence in the community.

"A religious place is supposed to be a sacred space; I cried when I saw what they did."

Ramsaran said she did not know why anyone would target the temple.

Inter-Religious Organisation head, pundit Lloyd Sirjoo strongly condemned the attack in a phone interview with Newsday on May 8.

"This is a heinous act that cannot be condoned; any such acts at a religious place cannot and should not be condoned."

He questioned why anyone would desecrate any religious site and believes not enough is being done to safeguard religious spaces.

"The authorities are not very proactive. How many times have we seen or heard of religious sites being destroyed? How many convictions have we heard of? Perpetrators need to be brought to justice."

Sirjoo said when people are not held accountable for these acts, they will continue.

"Criminals will think it is ok to do this because nothing will happen to them."

He said law enforcement has taken a "lackadaisical" approach to finding or arresting any criminals.

"When it comes to religious institutions, it seems every creed and race do not find an equal place."

He urged the public not to label these acts as hate crimes without proper facts.

"We need to look at each case individually, there isn't any information or evidence to make those bold statements and to call anything a hate crime."

He said crime in the county was out of control and not enough was being done to curb it.

"Everywhere feels unsafe."

The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, in a media release on Wednesday, condemned the attack.

"This is not the unholy work of a vagrant or a band of vagrants," it said.

This attack is the latest on places of worship.

In March, the Tabernacle of Prayer Church in Port of Spain was broken into twice in three days, with the bandits making off with close to $200,000 in equipment and food hampers prepared for donation to the less fortunate. The bandits also vandalised the church.

On September 9, 2023, vandals broke into the Williamsville Hindu Temple and destroyed the walls of the building.

On September 22, 2023, the Lakrani Ganesh Mandir in Gopie Trace, Penal, was broken into and several murtis were destroyed.

On September 28, 2023, the Kali Maa Temple in Carli Bay, Couva, was graffitied.

In October 2023, a group of teens threw rocks at the Pranavananda Ashram at Temple Street off Beaucarro Road in Freeport, damaging several cars as devotees worshipped inside.

On December 18, 2023, the St Francis Shrine Church of All Saints in Claxton Bay was set on fire. The vandals stacked wooden benches, drums, clay vases and other sacred vessels in the middle of the church and set them alight.

Thieves also stole cash and gold jewellery from murtis at the Munroe Road Hindu Temple last December.


"Latest attack on places of worship: 6 murtis destroyed"

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