Share story

BANGALORE, India (AP) — An Australian couple has said they were harassed at a restaurant in southern India by people who objected to a tattoo of a Hindu goddess on the man’s leg.

A crowd gathered around Matt Keith and his girlfriend while they were having lunch Saturday in Bangalore, saying the tattoo on the man’s shin offended their religion.

Keith said in a Facebook post that police took them to a police station where he was forced to write a letter of apology before they were allowed to leave.

Keith said he had studied in a school in southern India some years ago. “I love India which is why we came back to visit,” he said.

“We have heard about the growing Hindu nationalism, but nothing justifies the way we were treated. I love Hinduism,” he said.

India has seen a rise in incidents of religious intolerance over the past year, with Hindu nationalists trying to create a more Hindu-centric country.

Keith said he also had a tattoo of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha on his back.

Keith, who studied law at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, said he did not think he had done anything wrong.

“I should not have to apologize for what is on my skin and be put in a traumatizing situation where it is apparently acceptable to be harassed, threatened and mobbed,” he said.

Bangalore’s deputy commissioner of police, Sandeep Patil, said Monday that an inquiry had been ordered into the incident and its handling by local police. “If police forced the couple to give an apology, it is a serious matter,” Patil told reporters.