AASHNA MALPANI WRITES – Stories of harassment and violence in India made headlines all over the world again when a Swiss couple was brutally assaulted by a group of five young men at Fatehpur Sikri near Agra late last month.

Marie Droz and Quentin Jérémy Clerc, both 24, decided on taking a break from the tourist trail and explore some of the historic and hidden gems around the area which had once been a revered capital under the Mughals.

Trailing innocently along railway tracks, the couple found themselves in an open meadow where they were confronted by a few local men. When Droz and Clerc refused to acknowledge their repeated attempts of misconduct and abusive behavior, the youths started pelting the duo with stones and rocks, grievously injuring them in the process.

Perpetrators justified their attack to the police by claiming that the foreigners had disrespected them by ignoring their advances and getting intimate in front of them, The New York Times reported.

The greetings these men were trying to extend were intrusive personal questions, forced attempts at taking selfies with the pair, and brash attempts to invade Droz’s personal space.

“The boys wouldn’t stop walking along despite our protests. All the while they kept taking pictures and trying to get close to Marie. From whatever little we could understand, they were asking our names and the place where we had put up in Agra. They were harassing us. 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,” Clerc told Times of India.

The assailants fled the scene by the time a crowd surfaced, but not before they had viciously cracked Clerc’s skull and caused severe nerve damage in his ear, and fractured Droz’s arm.

As due course of action was underway, with police enforcement conducting in-depth investigations and government officials reaching out to the Swiss survivors, CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat wrote to the Swiss Ambassador Andreas Baum, condemning the entire incident as “shocking and horrifying,” something that is “extremely shameful” for the people of India.

Events such as these, of women being spotted with someone of the opposite gender and then being “rightfully” battered in unimaginable ways, seem to have become the official narrative facing women in India.

The violent rape of Jyoti Singh in 2012, one that left India in shambles and the rest of the world in horror, was defended by the rapist, “a decent girl won’t roam around at 9 o’clock at night (with a boy).”

His lawyer, AP Singh, too shared his stance, telling BBC News, “If my daughter or sister engaged in premarital activities and disgraced herself and allowed herself to lose face and character by doing such things, I would most certainly take this sort of sister or daughter to my farmhouse, and in front of my entire family, I would put petrol on her and set her alight.”

Karat has not issued similar apologies to other women in the country who are assaulted every 22 minutes or men who try to defend them.

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