LUCKNOW — Police in India are investigating the brutal beating of a Swiss couple near a fort close to the famed Taj Mahal.
Quentin Jeremy Clerc and girlfriend Marie Droz, both 24, were beaten with sticks and stones by a group of men over the weekend near the Fatehpur Sikri fort in Agra, police said. The attack left Clerc with a fractured skull and Droz with a broken arm.
The Swiss couple from Lausanne told police the men were heckling and stalking them and insisting on taking selfies with Droz. When Clerc asked to be left alone, the men started beating them with sticks and someone in the group threw stones.
India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted that her department had asked the state government for a report.
Rajiv Srivastava, a police spokesman in Uttar Pradesh state where the city of Agra is located, said that the attack was being investigated and a complaint had been filed against four men.
A report in the Times of India newspaper said that several passersby who saw the bloodied and bruised couple lying on the ground started taking photos and recording videos on their phones instead of helping them.
“The boys wouldn’t stop walking along despite our protests. All the while they kept taking pictures and trying to get close to Marie. They were harassing us,” Clerc told the newspaper.
He said: “They asked us to accompany them to some place, which we refused. A little after stones and sticks began to rain on me. When Marie intervened, she, too, wasn’t spared.”
Foreign tourists routinely face harassment in India, with groups of people, often fascinated by blonde hair or blue eyes, whistling and catcalling at them. Others may take photos without permission or insist of posing for selfies.
The Uttar Pradesh Travel Agents Association has written letters to the government several times asking to improve security at places that draw large numbers of tourists.
“Private security is deployed at the main building but its vicinity often goes unprotected. And such incidents are reported from these unprotected areas,” Shamshuddin Khan, a travel agent in Agra, said.
IANS adds that five people, including three minors, were taken into custody for the crime. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who visited Agra, promised better security for tourists.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said while Marie Droz had been discharged from the hospital Oct. 26, Quentin Jeremy Clerc’s condition was improving. The Swiss embassy in New Delhi confirmed the Oct. 22 attack and said it was providing them consular services.
Sushma Swaraj sought a report from the Uttar Pradesh government on the assault. Minister of State for Tourism K.J. Alphons expressed deep concern. He said a “fast and speedy response in identifying and ensuring speedy action including conviction of the guilty would be reassuring” and would send a “good message of our efforts to prevent recurrence of such incidents.”
Earlier in the day, Uttar Pradesh’s Additional Director General of Police Chandra Prakash said one person was arrested from the Agra-Rajasthan border.
In the Fatehpur Sikri area, there have been numerous such incidents targeting innocent tourists, but police have not stepped up vigil, say tour guides.
Condemning the assault on the Swiss tourists, the Congress said the incident “unmasks the ugly face of Anti-Romeo Squads” in the state.
“This attack on the young foreign couple unmasks the ugly face of the Anti-Romeo squad in UP, which is fully supported and patronized by the UP government. Rather than protecting tourists and residents of UP, the chief minister is working overtime to bring ‘acche din’ for criminals and goons,” Congress spokesman Jaiveer Shergill said.