Hindu community 'deeply upset' by sixth break-in at Swindon temple

  • Watch Caron Bell's report

Members of the Hindu community in Swindon and Wiltshire say they have been left depressed and demoralised after a sixth break-in at their temple, which police are treating as a hate crime. 

Worshippers are looking for a new venue but say alternative temple sites offered by Swindon Borough Council are not suitable.

The building on the Cheney Manor Industrial Estate was repeatedly burgled during lockdown and a sixth break-in, on Wednesday 26 January, has left sacred objects desecrated and other damage.

The temple in happier times - celebrating the Holi festival of colour. Credit: Swindon Hindu Temple Trust

The temple trustees are devastated. Nirupama Satish said: "This further desecration and burglary and vandalism at the temple has deeply upset us, and the entire community really."

Pradeep Bhardwaj, Chairman of the Swindon Hindu Temple also shared his feelings. He said he felt "sadness, frustration anger and disgust".

The Swindon Hindu Temple and Cultural Centre is the only temple for the 10,000 Hindus of Swindon and Wiltshire, providing a venue not just for worship but for language lessons, yoga, a chess club, a library, music and dance performances and more.

A break-in in autumn 2021, however, led to Swindon Council closing the temple to worshippers because it was unsafe. It has offered the upper two floors of a building in Swindon town centre as an alternative but temple trustees say that it is not suitable.

The trustees say this alternative building in Swindon town centre would not be suitable as a temple. Credit: ITV West Country

Nirupama Satish said: "There's no lift, there's also issues with elderly and people with small children accessing the site, and it's unsuitable in other ways because of issues with the number that can be accommodated within the building."

There is also evidence of anti-social behaviour around the building, which makes it an unlikely base for a religious community.

Cllr Keith Williams from Swindon Borough Council said: "The difficulty we've got is that this is taxpayers' money. So the reality is, we don't actually need to offer anything at all.

"What we're doing is we're saying, with the portfolio of properties we have, this is actually what's available. If you want to, you can take your pick."

Pradeep Bhardwaj believes the council has a duty to protect its Hindu community by providing somewhere that is secure and fit for purpose.

He said: "We all aspire for peace - it's an important concept. But peace cannot exist on its own. Peace and security go hand in hand. If we want to have peace, as a society we must ensure security as well, and especially security for places of worship for minority populations, where people can feel safe to come and pray and worship."

The Hindu community in Swindon hope that they will be able to worship together again before too long. Credit: Swindon Hindu Temple Trust

The temple trustees say they will continue working with the council, and are also looking at commercial options. 

In the meantime, the Hindus of Swindon and Wiltshire have nowhere to worship.