An Australian national was allegedly harassed by an unruly mob in the south Indian city of Bengaluru for a tattoo depicting Hindu goddess Yellamma on his leg. He was later forced to issue a written apology at a local police station in the city.
"They threatened to skin the tattoo off even after I told them it is a part of my body. 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," Matthew Gordon told The Hindu newspaper.
The local police station in question has, however, denied the use of any force or coercion to get Gordon to apologise. The city's deputy commissioner of police Sandeep Patil, dubbed the incident a trivial matter and said the Australian could approach him in case he felt he was mistreated.
Gordon and his girlfriend Emily were dining at a popular cafe in Bengaluru on 17 October when a couple of men spotted him with the tattoo and took offence. Soon, close to 25 people gathered at the eatery and refused to let the couple leave. When he was confined and harassed, Gordon called one of his local friends for help. Police officials also arrived at the same time and asked the couple and his friend to come to the police station.
"The policemen started to advise 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," said Gordon.
The letter, addressed to the local police 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."
Gordon said he got the tattoo as he took a liking to the symbolism in the Hindu religion. He also has a large Ganesh tattoo on his back. "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," he said. However, deeply scarred over the incident, Gordon said he did not want to stay in Bengaluru anymore.
In a Facebook post Gordon said, "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, reports emerged that a local political leader belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was part of the crowd that harassed Gordon and his girlfriend. Denying the report, the party's city president Subbunarasimha said strong action would be taken against the leader, if that was the case.