Mumbai: In yet another incident of harassment of women tourists at the famous Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Aurangabad, a Russian couple was photographed, harassed and abused until police intervened.
Local police arrested 11 men who were among a group of 250 tourists who had arrived in four busloads from the Indore district of Madhya Pradesh (MP) on a trip arranged by a local legislator Sathyanarayan Patel from Depalpur.
Marathi newspapers reported that the foreign tourists were forced to pose for photos with the men and one of them was seen putting his hand on the woman tourist’s shoulder. The couple managed to escape the crowd that had surrounded them but the police reportedly did not file their complaint. However, local people who had filmed this incident presented it to the police who promptly arrested 11 men.
Police inspector, Anil Gaikwad, posted at Ellora, told Gulf News on phone that “the tourists from MP had taken permission from the Russian tourists to take their pictures. But when a huge crowd surrounded the couple, they felt uneasy and approached the constable on duty.” He said the police immediately arrived and arrested 11 men who were produced before a court on Thursday. They were let off with a fine of Rs200 (Dh11) and a warning.
Gaikwad also said that security has already been increased at Ajanta, Ellora and Daulatabad fort following a complaint by three woman tourists who wrote to the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) and tourism minister of their experience being harassed, mocked and abused by groups of men.
After their visit to these historic sites in early August, the women in their letter of protest asked the authorities to ensure the safety and dignity of woman tourists in Maharashtra.
One of them, Natasha Zarine, a resident of Aurangabad, said, “We were shocked and disappointed [after] being sexually harassed and intimidated by other visitors. They harassed not only us but several foreign tourists as well.” And in the dark corridors of Daulatabad fort, a group of boys surrounded them and began to shout, laugh and giggle while making monkey sounds and blocking their path. “The guards did absolutely nothing to stop this,” she said.
Following this complaint, the government decided that security guards and staff deployed by the Archaeological Survey of India will be trained by the police department to ensure the safety of tourists visiting these sites. The police have asked concerned departments to ensure surveillance through CCTV cameras, many of which are not presently working.