Attack on Swiss couple in Agra evokes widespread outrage
New Delhi: People cutting across party lines have condemned the attack on a Swiss couple near Agra in Uttar Pradesh state.
A group of men chased and attacked the couple with sticks and stones in Fatehpur Sikri near Agra on October 22, a day after they visited the Taj Mahal. However, the news about the attack came to light only after five days.
The couple was left wounded on the road. Witnesses took videos of the couple on their mobile phones as they lay on the ground. Five people have been arrested, the police said.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Tourism Minister KJ Alphons have written to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on the brutal assault that left Quentin Jeremy Clerc with a fractured skull and partial hearing loss, and his girlfriend Marie Droxz with a broken arm. The couple is currently in Delhi’s Apollo hospital. Clerk has a clot in the brain and a nerve in his ear has been affected.
Dr Rajendra Prasad, neurosurgeon at the Apollo Hospital, said Clerc has been shifted to the ward from the ICU. The doctor said Droz has a fracture in her arm but has been discharged after treatment.
“We have moved him (Clerc) out of the ICU into a room. He is having a hearing problem otherwise he is conscious and talking,” said Prasad, adding it is difficult to say at this moment whether he has suffered permanent hearing damage.
“He’s improving but we will have to see in the long term,” he said.
Prasad said the duo is in a state of shock and that Droz is at present with her male friend.
The incident evoked widespread condemnation.
“It is a matter of shame for us,” said federal Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma.
The attack dimmed the spectacle of Yogi Adityanath’s first visit as chief minister to the Taj Mahal on October 26, where he also clicked photos with foreign tourists.
“Strongest action will be taken in incidents of violence against tourists,” Yogi Adityanath told reporters as he wrapped up his visit.
Clerc and Marie Droxz, both 24, had arrived in Agra on September 30 from Lausanne in Switzerland.
After visiting the Taj, they were in the historic Fatehpur Sikri town when the attack occurred.
Four young men followed them for an hour, shouted comments and tried to engage them in conversation. Eventually they grew bolder, blocked their way and forcibly took selfies with Droxz.
Clerc alleges that he was hit repeatedly with a stick until he fell to the ground. Droxz was also attacked.
“Some of (the attackers) could be minors, so we are investigating and if they are indeed minors they will be produced in juvenile court,” senior police officer Amit Pathak told reporters.
Foreign ministry officials including Indian Ambassador designate to Switzerland C B George visited the couple in hospital and said they were recovering and happy with their treatment. “We are monitoring his progress,” Swaraj, who had earlier sought a report from Uttar Pradesh.
Agra, which draws millions of visitors from across the world, has been concerned about a hit in its traffic following the politics over Taj Mahal and also a spike in crime.
Former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, referring to the anti-Romeo squads or police teams set up by the Yogi Adityanath government to check harassment, questioned: “What happened to anti-Romeo squads? A couple visiting Fatehpur Sikri were beaten when they tried to click a selfie.”
Congress leader Milind Deora tweeted: “Such a shameful story on the breakdown of law & order in India’s largest state. Is @myogiadityanath listening?”
The Embassy of Switzerland in New Delhi confirms that two Swiss citizens were attacked in India,” the Embassy said in a statement, adding, “In the framework of consular protection services, the Embassy is providing support to them. For reasons of privacy and data protection, the Embassy cannot communicate any further information in this regard.”
Alphons’s letter to the Uttar Pradesh government read, ‘A fast and speedy response in identifying and ensuring speedy action, including conviction of the guilty, would be reassuring, as also a good message of our efforts to prevent recurrence of such incidents.”