The most recent spat of a deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in New York, Devyani Khobragade over a visa fraud has once again highlighted how Indians are battered in the foreign country in spite of holding a high official post. Here are the noted personalities who were detained or underwent a pat-down search while passing through or during their stay in United States, reports Yahoo India.
APJ Abdul Kalam
APJ Abdul Kalam, the 11th president of India and the first scientist to hold the post was also once targeted during his visit to the U.S. There, he was twice frisked at New York’s JFK Airport with U.S. security officials even taking his jacket and shoes to check for explosives and also by staff of Continental Airlines at New Delhi airport. This was one such incident that left India fuming. Later, a written apology to Kalam and the Indian government was sent by the U.S. stating, “Appropriate procedure for expedited screening of dignitaries had not been followed”.
George Fernandes, former Defence Minister has claimed that he was strip searched twice at Dulles Airport in the U.S. Capital area, during an official visit as a defense minister to Washington in early 2002 and again while en route to Brazil in mid-2003. Later, the then United States Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, personally apologized to Fernandes over the incident.
“Just as we were saying good-bye to Fernandes, a member of our delegation innocently asked him when he would next be coming to Washington. His demeanor abruptly changed. It was as though he was glad to have an excuse to tell us how he really felt about our country,” recalls Richard.
Meera Shankar, the Indian ambassador to the U.S. between 2009 and 2011, was subjected to a pat-down search in December 2010 by security personnel at Mississippi, Jackson-Evers International airport though she was travelling on a diplomatic passport. The reason behind the security search was nothing but wearing traditional attire—sari. The hands-on search also embarrassed the university officials who invited Meera Shankar to give a speech for an international studies program at Mississippi State University.
Shah Rukh Khan
The king Khan of Bollywood, who arrived in the U.S. to visit the Yale University, was detained for over two hours at a New York airport in 2009 and 2012. Shah Rukh Khan was accompanied by Nita Ambani when they arrived in a private plane at the New York’s White Plain airport. Media sources stated that while everybody else was cleared by the immigration immediately, Khan was stopped for over two hours before being cleared by the immigration officials. On another incident, he was detained at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey when he had gone to promote his movie ‘My Name is Khan’, which ironically was about racial profiling of Muslims in the U.S. “Nothing seemed to convince the immigration officer, even when other officers (who recognized me) vouched for me. I feel angry and humiliated,” Shahrukh said afterwards.
Former union minister Praful Patel, who was in Chicago for attending an official engagement was detained at the O’Hare airport in Chicago in September 2010. He was held for questioning as his name and date of birth matched with those of a man on America’s watch list. Despite telling the immigration authorities that he was a minister in the Indian government, they kept asking him why he was visiting the U.S. and whether he had stayed in the country earlier.
Uttar Pradesh Cabinet Minister and senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan has alleged that he was insulted at the Boston airport in April 2013. Khan, who was accompanying state Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for a Harvard University event in the U.S., was detained briefly for questioning. Khan also alleged that officials at the Boston Airport not just frisked him but also misbehaved with him.
Hardeep Puri, India’s former UN envoy was detained for more than 30 minutes in a holding room at Houston Airport after refusing to remove his turban in December 2010. Puri refused to do the same as Sikh men are expected to keep their heads covered in public at all times. It is even forbidden to touch the head dress in public as it symbolizes self-respect, honour and piety.
Irrfan Khan, a noted Indian actor who worked in Oscar-winning films like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Life of Pi’ and ‘Spider-Man’, was also detained twice at the U.S. airports at Los Angeles airport in 2008 and at New York airport in 2009. Irrfan said, “It’s humiliating. They don’t even disclose the reason,” reports PTI. “The policemen with big guns just take you to a room and ask you to sit. They don’t allow you to speak to anybody, nor use cellphones. And after long waits, they come and simply say ‘Go, please go’, he added.
Neil Nitin Mukesh
Actor Neil Nitin Mukesh was detained at an airport in the U.S. for over an hour because the immigration officials refused to believe that he is an Indian. Neil said that the incident happened when he arrived in New York to shoot for Kabir Khan’s film ‘New York’ which has a backdrop of 9/11 terror attacks, reports PTI.