Intolerant India? Australian student in Bengaluru forced to apologise for goddess tattoo

In yet another case of religious intolerance being enforced by a mob, an Australian student was hounded by a group of people who threatened to 'skin him', detained by the local police and forced to apologise. All because he has a tattoo of the Hindu goddess Yellamma on his shin.

The 21-year-old student Matt Gordon and his girl friend Emily Kassianou were confronted by a group of people at a restaurant in Bengaluru on Saturday afternoon. Gordon was asked to get rid of the tattoo because it was offensive to their religious beliefs and were reportedly not allowed to leave the restaurant, according to a report by The Hindu.

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 policeman arrived and said this is India and one couldn’t sport such a tattoo on the leg,” Gordon was quoted as saying in the Hindu report. 

To make matters worse, the police also seemed to side with the mob and took the Australian student to the Ashok Nagar police station, the report said.

 Intolerant India? Australian student in Bengaluru forced to apologise for goddess tattoo

Screengrab from the YouTube video of the incident

A video of the incident was uploaded on YouTube and it shows a heated exchange between the Australians and the gathered crowd. A local friend of the couple was accompanying them and is seen trying to calm the situation.

A local BJP politician was also said to be involved in the incident, according to a report by Deccan Chronicle. The BJP activists took photos and videos of the couple and allegedly demanded that Gordon’s leg be skinned, because “this is India”, says the report.

 

An unnamed witness was quoted by Deccan Chronicle as saying, "We saw the couple surrounded by a large group of people, none of whom attempted to help them. The Hoysala van arrived soon after and they were taken away to the station. The politician, meanwhile, was delivering a speech about his love for his religion."

After being taken to the police station, Gordon finally gave in and wrote a letter of apology addressed to the sub-inspector of Ashok Nagar police station. The letter, was shared multiple times on social media, expressed Gordon’s sentiments quite accurately, who accepted that it was ‘forced’.

"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,” the letter read.

Meanwhile, a Times of India report said that both the sub-inspector and inspector of Ashoknagar police station denied the incident, while The Hindu reported that the Deputy Commissioner of Police (Central) Sandeep Patil, termed the matter as ‘trivial’.

Gordon, on the other hand, was understandably disturbed by the incident and took to Facebook to talk about the incident.

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. Tolerance, understanding and equality is what we 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 4 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.

This isn’t Gordon’s first time in India either. He was quoted as saying by Deccan Chronicle that, “I studied in a school in Kodaikanal and I love India, which is why we came back to visit. We have heard about the growing Hindu nationalism, but nothing justifies the way we were treated. I love Hinduism - I also have a Ganesha tattoo on my back. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.

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Updated Date: Oct 20, 2015 09:00:42 IST