Australian couple mobbed in India over Hindu deity leg tattoo
An Australian couple have defended their right of expression after they were mobbed, harassed and unlawfully detained in India over the man’s tattoo of a Hindu deity.
Melbourne law student Matthew Gordon was at a restaurant in the southern city of Bangalore with his girlfriend on Saturday when around a dozen activists from the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party began harassing the couple.
They said a tattoo of the Hindu fertility goddess Yellama on his shin offended their religious sentiments, and ordered him to remove it.
“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,” Mr Gordon told Indian media on Sunday.
It was reported the group quickly grew to over 25 men who blocked them from exiting the restaurant.
“A policeman arrived and said this is India and one couldn’t sport such a tattoo on the leg,” Mr Gordon told local media.
“I was relieved to see a policeman, but much to my shock he started to blame me, and said this is India and we are insulting Hindus.”
I should not have to apologise for what is on my skin and be … harassed, threatened and mobbed.
The pair were reportedly taken to the Ashok Nagar police station “for their own protection”.
“He then took me to the station … we were forced to sit there for three hours. They let me go only after I gave an apology saying I will cover this tattoo,” Mr Gordon said.
Mr Gordon took to Facebook to defend his right to show off the tattoo.
“I should not have to apologise for what is on my skin and be put in a traumatising situation where it is apparently acceptable to be harassed, threatened and mobbed,” he wrote on Facebook.
“Tolerance, understanding and equality is what we live by I respect India and Hinduism completely.
“That’s why I spent … [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.”
Mr Gordon told local media he had a strong attachment to the faith after spending three years in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Australia’s High Commission said it was concerned about the incident and was speaking to local authorities.