The Australian couple, who were harassed not only by an angry mob but also the police over >a tattoo of a Hindu goddess on Saturday, have said fear has made them consider leaving the city and even the country.
Law student Matthew Gordon (21) and Emily Kassianou (20), both from Melbourne, were planning to stay in the city till February. They told The Hindu that >Saturday’s ordeal had shaken them.
“There could be repercussion from the men who accosted us … It looks like I may be forced out of Bengaluru,” Mr. Gordon said.
The two had come to the city nearly four weeks ago as a part of their India tour. “I love this city, and decided to stay on,” he said. Along with a few friends he even joined a local football club, he said.
He and his girlfriend were regular customers at the eatery where the men >took objection to the goddess Yellamma tattoo on his left shin. “I have been wearing shorts during my stay here, and no one had objected to it until Saturday … It was a rude awakening that someone would object to a tattoo,” Mr. Gordon said.
He tried explaining to the men that the >tattoo bore a deeper meaning rather than just exoticism. However, the abuse and threats continued. “When they threatened to skin the tattoo off, I told them it is a part of my body. I cherish the values of the gods and goddesses enough to go through the pain of nearly 40 hours to ink them into my being. I cherish them enough to make them a part of me,” said Mr. Gordon.
During his schooling in Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu, Mr. Matthew took to a liking to the symbolism in Hindu religion, and got two tattoos of religious motifs inked in Australia. The Yellamma tattoo was inked on his shin, while he also has a large Ganesh tattoo on his back.
At the Ashoknagar police station, where the couple was dragged to, Mr. Gordon was even made to show the Ganesh tattoo. This was given an “approval” from the policemen as well the group that had abused him. “They said it was right to have a tattoo above the waist,” he said.
The ordeal ended only when the city police forced out an apology letter from him for “offending religious sentiments”, and even extracted a promise to “cover the tattoo” when he is in India.
K. Marulasiddappa, writer
This is atrocious. I am left wondering as to which party is in power in this State. It is shocking to see how the police system has sided with those objecting to the tattoo and taken an apology letter from the Australian. The government should initiate severe action against all the police officials involved in the incident.
Gauri Lankesh, senior journalist
It is shocking to see how religious intolerance has seeped into the police and administrative system as well. While we spend crores on tourism campaigns saying ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, and this is the treatment that we mete out to them. It is a body art and he is free to express it.
Sandeep Patil, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central)
A few people in a hotel took objection to the foreign national having a tattoo of a goddess on his leg. He had got it three years ago. If the Australian national feels that Ashoknagar police personnel forced him to tender an apology, he can approach us, and we will take firm action against them.
BJP condemns episode
Bharatiya Janata Party Bengaluru City president Subbunarasimha has condemned the episode. Referring to the allegation by the Australian that a BJP leader from Shantinagar was involved in the episode, Mr. Subbunarasimha said he will summon him on Monday to get details. “Even if our own party worker is involved in this, it is completely wrong. I want to make it clear that the BJP has nothing do with this episode,” he told The Hindu .