So 'superstar' Shah Rukh Khan is allegedly detained for two hours at the Newark airport. Allegedly because US customs officials say the delay/checks were only "a little more than hour" and the rest of the delay was because SRK's luggage was lost. The Indian media -- not surprisingly at all -- raised a furore about it. The Times of India cried that SRK had been detained for being a Khan. IBNLive.com quotes Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram saying, "US overdid it with SRK". (Et tu Chidu?)
Quick flashback here: On 21st April 2009, former Indian president APJ Kalam was frisked at the Indira Gandhi International airport prior to boarding a Continental Airlines flight. The airlines was subsequently pulled up and made to apologise. Interestingly though, the frisking happened despite the Indian government having a list of VIPs who do not require security checks. This list was ignored by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the US governing body responsible for security of US transportation systems.
Given that certain Indian VIPs have some dubious -- if yet unproven -- distinctions on their resumes, why should there be a list at all? Some examples: Narenda Modi was allegedly involved in the Godhra burnings (cleared of charges in 2008). Former home minister LK Advani was the alleged mastermind of the Babri mosque demolition. and Bollywood filmstar Sanjay Dutt was allegedly involved in the 1993 Mumbai blasts (since cleared of terrorism charges but to serve six years in prison for possession of illegal arms, ie, an AK-47 gun). Stepping outside Indian borders, US President Richard Nixon was involved in the Watergate scandal and Bill Clinton was impeached (and acquitted a year later). WHY should VIPs -- anywhere in the world -- be exempt from any rules and regulations?
If former president APJ Abdul Kalam was frisked at New Delhi airport, why not Khan in the US? As for SRK's detention, it's apparently because 'Khan' is a most-common name in the US names database. Why should that shock anyone? For instance, according to Wikipedia, if you check in the United Kingdom, Khan is the surname of "over 80,000 Britons and is of only a handful of non-British or Irish originating surnames to be in the 100 most common surnames list." (Full list here)
So the US is stopping and questioning all Khans. Racism? Minority profiling? Preventing another terrorist attack? Maybe all, maybe not. What I'd like to know is whether we are crying out because a Muslim was detained for too long or because it is a Bollywood star who was stopped?
I have a feeling it's the latter. Midday quotes actors Irrfan Khan and Zayed Khan as being "humiliated" because they were detained for questioning. Were they abused? Were they called names? If regular, non-VIP people are being stopped and need to follow procedures, why should there be a furore when filmstars are involved?!
If a Rashid Khan or Bashir Khan or some other Khan is stopped, it is okay because they could be terrorists? Actor Irrfan Khan -- who I interviewed in 2000 and seemed quite intelligent back then at least -- has been quoted saying, "...Surely they can tell the difference between a terrorist and an innocent traveler." Arre miyan, terrorism is not coded in the DNA you know.
To cut a long story short, why are we getting our underwear in knots over SRK's detention? If it is human rights violation, sure take it up but NOT because it's some VIP-rights violation. If we find the US security checks too stringent, perhaps we should stop whining and do something with our security issues as well. Lest we forget that in the recent Mumbai attacks of 2008, Kasab and others simply got off a bloody boat...
PS: As for SRK insisting the US needs to offer warmth, please shutup.
Pic courtesy: Beyondasiaphilia