Calgary

Mystery swirls over who cut down food bank, library box outside Hindu temple

A food bank and library outside a Hindu temple in northeast Calgary that was meant to help people struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic has been sawed down — but there's confusion over whether it was vandalism or a deliberate move by temple management.

Temple president says vandals struck overnight; board chair says management did it for safety reasons

After finding the food bank and library box cut down, Raksh Joshi, president of the Hindu Society of Calgary, said: 'It feels so sad. I'm sick from my stomach.' (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

A food bank and little free library outside a Hindu temple in northeast Calgary that was meant to help people struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic has been sawed down — but there's confusion over whether it was vandalism or a deliberate move by temple management.

Raksh Joshi, president of the Hindu Society of Calgary, told CBC News on Wednesday that the supporting legs of the wooden boxes for the food bank and free library were cut off and the structures left pushed over on the snow outside the temple, which stands in an industrial area in Vista Heights.

"It feels so sad. I'm sick from my stomach," said Joshi, who added that he thinks it happened between 1 and 3 a.m. on Tuesday.

"I don't know why someone would do it."

The large food bank box had its legs sawed off and was pushed over in the snow. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

Board of trustees says management removed them

However, on Wednesday afternoon, the chair of the board of trustees for the Hindu Society of Calgary, Rakesh Punj, posted on the society's Facebook page that they were taken down by management.

"I, Rakesh Punj, herewith declare that the food bank removed from outside the Hindu Society of Calgary is removed by the management due to safety and security issues but we are planning to reinstall it at other place," he wrote in the post.

"We are always supports of community. Meanwhile, any needy person can come and contact to the office and pick the food from inside the temple."

Rakesh Punj, the chair of the board of trustees of the Hindu Society of Calgary, posted this message on the society's Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon, saying temple management had cut down the food bank and library box. (Hindu Society of Calgary Facebook page)

The "take a blessing, leave a blessing" food bank was donated to the temple by local group Love With Humanity Association, which has constructed and donated other food banks and libraries in and around Calgary.

The association's Syed Najam Hassan says the food bank was a gift to help people in need and wasn't aware they were being taken down. He says it won't stop him in his mission to spread love and bring a smile to people's faces.

A small, multicultural library was also targeted, sawn off at the base and left in the snow outside the Hindu temple. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

The food banks allow people to access food and essentials with no questions asked — as well as for people to leave items for others.

The food bank and library stood on City of Calgary property directly outside the gates of the temple, which has been there for more than 40 years.

They were put there with all the proper permissions needed, according to Joshi.

The food bank opened last month and was endorsed by Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal as well as MLA Leela Aheer.

Syed Najam Hassan, of the Love With Humanity Association, is seen here building the food bank last year. (Submitted by Syed Najam Hassan)

"All community members, Sikh, Muslim, are all with us. They've been helping us and nobody would do this kind of act. They are the ones that provide food to us," said Joshi. 

Joshi says food and books that weren't damaged were moved inside the temple.

"Hopefully we'll find out from the video cameras who did it and why they did it," said Joshi.

"This is a very inhuman act."

Initially, some people in the South Asian community worried it was vandalism carried out to create divisions between religious groups. Others hoped it was a random attack. 

Joshi says he has reported the incident to Calgary police.

He says he wants the community to stay calm, peaceful and in harmony while they work out what happened.

"We love all communities, we want to work with all communities," he said.

About the Author

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, only using an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey

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