australian man harrased over tattoo in bengluru

Australian couple threatened to be skinned by men, then harassed by police for tattooing Hindu goddess on shin

Law student Matthew and Emily, both from Melbourne, were planning to stay in the city till February. The two had come to the city nearly four weeks ago as a part of their India tour. Now, fear has made the Australian couple consider leaving the city and even the country.

A group of people harassed an Australian couple at a restaurant in Bengluru on Saturday, even threatening to skin the young man’s leg, for sporting the tattoo of Hindu goddess Yellamma on his shin.

Their ordeal did not end there as the city police not only detained them but also forced the man to apologise to the group for ‘hurting their religious sentiments.’

The incident happened around 2 p.m. when Matthew Gordon (21) and his girl friend Emily Kassianou (20) from Melbourne were spotted by the group.

One of them came to me and confronted me about my tattoo. Soon, they surrounded us and threatened to skin my leg and remove the tattoo,

a shaken Gordon, a law student, told The Hindu on Sunday.

The group soon called in more people and over 25 men gathered outside the eatery, not allowing the couple to leave.

A policeman arrived and said this is India and one couldn’t sport such a tattoo on the leg,

Mr. Gordon recalled. They were taken to the Ashok Nagar police station.

The Australian couple were allegedly given a “dressing-down” and a “lesson on Hindu values” by the police personnel in front of the protesting group.

Policemen forced Matthew to write an apology and we were made to wait for three hours till he did so,

said Ms. Kassianou.

The policemen advised me on Hindu religion and insisted I give a written apology for not covering my goddess tattoo, even as the group just watched. I tried taking law points, but had to finally give in as my girlfriend was in tears as the cops wouldn’t let us go,

Mr. Gordon said.

The letter, addressed to the sub-inspector of Ashok Nagar police station, read:

My name is Matthew visiting from Melbourne, Australia. I am very sorry for offending Hindu religious beliefs by my tattoo. I didn’t know of this auspicious custom in regard to tattoo placement. I will make sure to cover it up until I am in India. Thanking you for educating me on what is appropriate. I am also extremely sorry for using inappropriate language.

Both the sub-inspector and inspector of Ashoknagar police station denied the incident.

On Sunday, Keith’s post read:

Tolerance, understanding and equality is what we live by. I respect India and Hinduism completely. That’s why I spent 35 hours getting a massive Ganesha put on my back and four hours getting the goddess of the lowest rung of Indian society (Yellamma) on the only bit of space I had left on my body. Because my spiritual journey is my decision, as are the markings on my body. I do not deserve to be victimised and have to physically defend myself and my girlfriend every day. She does not deserve sexual abuse, both physical and verbal. We support equality for all, tolerance of everyone and especially for the women in this country. Please support us as we try to bring awareness to crimes of injustice.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Sandeep Patil, termed the matter “trivial.”

Both parties have reached a compromise and there is nothing serious about it,

he said.

What the tattoo artists think about it?

Tattoo artists are divided in their opinion on whether one should exercise caution when s/he wants to get a religious symbol inked.

While some said it was a violation of personal choice, others said it was only fair to refrain from hurting religious sentiments.

Pradeep Menon, a tattoo artist from Koramangala, said he had gone to conventions and seen a lot of people who sported tattoos with pictures of gods and goddesses.

I find it ridiculous. This is a personal preference. Nobody can ask anybody to remove something that is on her/his body. Whenever people say they want a religious symbol as a tattoo, I warn them of consequences, among which would be dealing with activist groups,

he said.

Rajgopal, a tattoo artist from Indiranagar, felt that the Australian national had attracted attention probably because he is a foreigner.

Condemning the incident, he said, Your body is a temple and tattooing is a form of art. It shouldn’t matter where you are getting it inked.

Critics condemned the incident and expressed fear that India’s fundamentalist/revivalists are on the same path as Islamist terrorists: defending images of a goddess in the manner in which Islamists went crazy over depictions of their prophet Muhammad.

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