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Frisking Dr Kalam was an insult

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Last Updated: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - 15:38
Ritesh K Srivastava
The Observer

The frisking of former president APJ Abdul Kalam, who is our national hero and also a Bharat Ratna awardee, by the ground security staff of Continental Airlines, is clearly an insult to the entire nation.

The treatment meted out to our former head of state by the security staff of the American airline is a clear violation of Indian Laws and a breach of protocol meant for VIPs and VVIPs, who are exempt from frisking and security checks.

What is more shocking is to see the dillydallying by Continental Airlines over the issue. It earlier refused to budge and tender an apology for its disrespectful behaviour citing obligations under US Department of Homeland Security laws.

Justifying its action, the airliner said that former President APJ Abdul Kalam was not exempt from frisking before boarding the aircraft.

However, it was only after the controversy surrounding its action triggered widespread criticism from all quarters and the government’s subsequent order of an inquiry into the whole incident, that the Airliner issued an apology.

This is not the first time that an Indian VIP has been subjected to full body frisking by the US authorities in the name of security checks. Last year, the then External Affairs Minister, Pranab Mukherjee was frisked at Moscow airport. In 2003, our former defence minister George Fernandes was also given similar treatment by the US authorities while he was on an official visit to the US.

So, it would be appropriate if the Indian government demands an apology from the US administration over the “crass and disrespectful behaviour” of the Continental Airlines.

Ironically, this incident came to light at a time when the Indian establishment was busy giving a red carpet welcome to the visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Our government took adequate security measures to avoid any untoward incidents during the US dignitary’s visit to India.

There remains little doubt that Hillary was treated like a visiting queen and the Indian media also attached great significance to her tour.

And why Hillary only?

New Delhi has always given a special treatment to any VIP, any dignitary visiting our country irrespective of his/her country’s political status.

We have always lived up to our age-old saying “atithi devo bhav” (Guests are like God).

Imagine, how the Americans would have reacted had the Indian authorities frisked Hillary or asked the lady to remove her shoes in the name of a security check.

Why is it that Indians are always expected to bear such humiliations graciously and not supposed to raise their voice against such treatment?

The Americans take pride in following their country’s legislation on their home soil but they must also learn to abide by norms and regulations while operating in a different country.

They cannot ill-treat any one and at the same time expect the best of every thing for their own brethren.

The point is not against frisking anyone or security checks when the safety of so many innocent lives is at stake. Any one would agree that in view of increased terrorist threats, especially after 9/11 attacks, every country and not only America, has introduced enhanced security measures to assess and detect any threat to human lives.

But the question is why the US airline or, for that matter, some countries follow double standard security procedures - a lenient one for their own men and a hostile one for persons of different nationalities.

Would the ground staff of Continental Airlines show the same courage and frisk George Bush?

First Published: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 - 15:38

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