I refused pat-down search at US airport: India`s UN envoy

Last Updated: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 00:25

Zeenews Bureau

New York/New Delhi: One of India`s top
most diplomats, Hardeep Puri, Ambassador to the United
Nations, was asked to remove his turban during an airport
`pat-down` search in the US but he refused to oblige, instead opting for another procedure.

Talking to a TV channel, Puri said the incident occurred at the Houston Airport on November 13 when he was asked by authorities at the airport to remove his turban for ‘pat-down’ check, but he refused.

“I told them I wanted to opt for another procedure where a passenger could pat down his own turban…but they were not aware of this,” he said.

All of this took about half an hour when I was kept in a ‘holding room’, after which they apologised to me, Puri added. India has lodged a strong protest following the
incident.

The incident comes close on the heels of Indian Ambassador to the US
Meera Shankar being subjected to a `pat-down` search earlier
this month. The US deputy chief of mission in India, Donald Lu, was summoned by New Delhi to protest against the incident two days back.

India has lodged an official protest with US
authorities through its Consulate General in Houston, sources
said in New Delhi.

"I have taken it up with the US authorities and the
matter is at that stage. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
has also give an indication to the fact that they have to
revisit some of these procedures, particularly with reference
to diplomatic cover of other countries," External Affairs
Minister S M Krishna said in New Delhi when asked about these
searches.

Former Indian diplomats have reacted to the latest incident by pointing out that there should be reciprocal treatment of foreign envoys in India.

"The issue is not just of diplomats, but also of our Sikh brethren, whose issue we had taken up several times," former Indian ambassador to US, Ronen Sen told a television channel.

He said the security check of Puri`s turban violated the reassurances given by US authorities on sensitivity in handling religious symbols during checks. "We had explained to them that a pagri (turban) that a Sikh wears is not a headgear. It is a religious symbol, which should be treated with respect," said Sen.

On December 4, Shankar was pulled out from an airport
security line and patted down by an American security agent in
Mississippi despite informing them of her diplomatic status.

Shankar was subjected to an enhanced security pat-down
at the Jackson-Evers International Airport in Mississippi,
ostensibly because she was dressed in a sari.

In the past, many prominent Indians, including
ministers, have faced some uncomfortable moments at US
airports.

In September, visiting Civil Aviation Minister Praful
Patel was quizzed by US immigration authorities at the O`Hare
airport in Chicago after his name and date of birth matched
with that of another Praful Patel, who is on America`s
watch-list.

In August 2009, Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan was
detained and questioned at the Newark Liberty International
Airport. Khan was headed to Chicago for a parade to celebrate
India`s Independence Day, when he was pulled aside by airport
authorities for interrogation.

Former Defence Minister George Fernandes had claimed
that he was strip-searched twice at Dulles Airport in the US
Capital area, when he was on an official visit to Washington
in early 2002 and another time while en route to Brazil in mid
2003.

-Agencies inputs



First Published: Tuesday, December 14, 2010 - 00:25

comments powered by Disqus