San Francisco police investigate arson at Indian Consulate

“This is no less than a terrorist incident. It is vandalism on a diplomatic building." Indian Consul General Nagendra Prasad.

SAN FRANCISCO, California — The San Francisco Police Department is investigating two small fires set off outside the Indian Consulate early July 2 morning.

While several media have reported that the building was set ablaze,  San Francisco Fire Department spokesman Jonathan Baxter told New India Abroad that both incidents were relatively minor, with minimal structural damage and no harm to persons.

In the first incident, a roll of paper towels, approximately the size of a wastebasket, was set ablaze on the sidewalk outside the Consulate. The second blaze was a debris fire outside the Consulate door. This caused paint and char damage, Baxter clarified.

A call was made to 911 emergency services at 1:48 a.m. Police and the Fire Department arrived on the scene at 1:52 a.m. and quickly put out both fires. Baxter said both incidents are under investigation by the SFPD, but no arrests have yet been made. He could not say whether the fires were being investigated as acts of terrorism.

San Francisco Indian Consul General TV Nagendra Prasad told New India Abroad that he has CCTV video of the incidents, but has released no footage to media organizations. Videos circulating in the Indian news media and on social media showing a burning building are fake: they depict a structure that is not the Indian consulate, he confirmed.

“The footage is with the San Francisco Police Department, which is investigating the incident,” said Prasad. “This is no less than a terrorist incident. It is vandalism on a diplomatic building.” The consul general, who had a series of meetings with San Francisco police said that they have given “first priority” to investigating the acts of arson.

Graffiti was seen on the walls outside of the Consulate, proclaiming “Khalistan Zindabaad,” and “Free Amritpal Singh,” a young preacher believed to be a catalyst in the Khalistani movement in India. “This makes it clear that Khalistanis have done this,” said Prasad. He added that the Consulate has “a very good relationship with the majority of Sikhs who live in our jurisdiction.”

The two arson attacks come after the Consulate was vandalized in March. Three Khalistanis using large kirpans, smashed down the windows, injuring two workers inside who were hit with shards of glass. Protests and demonstrations also took place in London, Australia, and Canada. Police have made no arrests in the earlier incident.

Despite the threat of attack, Prasad told NIA that the Consulate has remained open throughout. “We have been providing full consular services to all members of our community,” he said, noting that security has been stepped up outside the building.

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller condemned the arson attack in a July 3 tweet. "The US strongly condemns the reported vandalism and attempted arson against the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. Vandalism or violence against diplomatic facilities or foreign diplomats in the US is a criminal offense," he wrote.

A protest by Khalistanis has been scheduled for July 8. It will start in Berkeley, California, and end at the San Francisco Indian Consulate. A poster promoting the “Khalistan Freedom Rally,” bears photos of India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu and Prasad, under the heading: “Killers in San Francisco.”

Representatives Ro Khanna (CA-17) and Michael Waltz (FL-06), co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, condemned the incident and the posters circulating on social media with violent rhetoric directed toward Indian diplomats.

“As the co-chairs of the India Caucus, we strongly condemn the attempted arson and vandalism at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco and the posters circulating on social media with violent rhetoric aimed at Indian diplomats, including Ambassador Sandhu. We support the right to free speech and freedom of expression for every American, but that is not a license to vandalize property or incite violence. Violence against diplomatic facilities is a criminal offense and will not be tolerated. We urge the State Department to coordinate with law enforcement in their investigation of the damage at the Indian Consulate expeditiously and hold those involved accountable,” their statement read.

This post is for paying subscribers only


Already have an account? Login