Pressing for Attack of Indian Priest to Be Considered a Bias Crime

Hindu Samaj Temple of Mahwah. (Photo courtesy of the temple, via the News India Times)

An early April attack on Devendra Shukla, 43, priest at the Hindu Samaj Temple of Mahwah, New Jersey, which was accompanied by racial obscenities and resulted in injuries to Shukla’s face, was not treated initially as a hate crime by local police, reports Sujeet Rajan in News India Times. Now, reports India West, a trustee of the temple says the case is being investigated as a bias incident.

There is footage of the incident,  captured on camera from one of the stores in the Ramsey shopping center that Shukla had driven to with his 6-year-old daughter the evening of April 3. However, that footage “revealed someone approaching the driver’s side of the car, but provided no more details, according to WNYC,” India West reports.

Here’s the account of how the incident unfolded from News India Times:

Shukla had just pulled into the parking area of the TD Bank on the premises, around 7:30 p.m., and was still in the car, when a Caucasian man, now identified as Nicholas Dow, 30, and who lives adjacent to the temple, in Mahwah, walked over to Shukla’s side of the car.

What transpired next has now led to outrage, anger, and activism in the local Indian community, to punish the culprit to the maximum extent of the law.

Shukla alleged in a police report filed later that Dow came over to the driver’s side of his car, and after screaming racial obscenities, including ‘dirty Indian’, without any provocation punched him in the face, causing injuries and bleeding. Shukla’s daughter, sitting in the back of the car, started to scream. She is still traumatized by the attack on her father.

Shukla was able to take a photograph of his attacker leaving the scene in his car, which led to Dow’s arrest. But, writes News India Times, police charged Dow with simple assault and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office viewed the attack as a ‘road rage’ incident. They were prepared to offer Dow a plea deal, resulting in two years’ probation, without any further time behind bars. The community rallied to challenge this.

Dr. Dinesh Khosla, Founder Trustee of Hindu Samaj Temple, Mahwah, and Founding Professor of Law, CUNY School of Law, in a phone interview to News India Times, said the community initiated a Change.org petition, calling for “a criminal trial with maximum punishment” in Shukla’s case.

The petition, with the headline, ‘No plea deal for Pt. Shukla’s attacker, we demand a criminal trial with maximum punishment’, with a goal of 5,000 signatures, had already crossed 3,500, morning of April 30, and counting.

Not getting satisfaction from the local county prosecutors, Khosla and others appealed to Attorney General Gurbir Grewal’s office for action.

Khosla told India-West that the New Jersey state Attorney General’s office informed him that the case will be investigated as a bias incident. Learn about the history of hostility toward the Mahwah temple which Khosla and others have documented in News India Times.

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