Monday, August 17, 2009

Frisk 'em all

This was a bad month for the great Indian VIP ego. Things started with an American airline (Continental) frisking Dr. Abdul Kalam, India's most popular president ever (who was not popular enough with the politicians because he had a conscience, so was consigned to just one term, but that's a different story. The post of the president in India is as redundant as the appendix in humans, but that is another different story.). Everyone except Dr. Kalam himself seemed quite outraged about the whole thing. Is it not arrogant on the part of the lowly employees of a commercial airline to frisk a former head of the state of the world's largest democracy? Does Indian Airlines ever frisk Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton? This is clearly American arrogance!

The only reason that Indian Airlines does not frisk former American heads of state on visits to India is that they don't fly Indian Airlines. They do not fly Continental airlines either. Their country considers them important enough to fly them using either in Air Force One or some other state plane. If India does not care enough about her former heads of state and lets them travel like the common man, then the former head of state must be treated like a common man wherever he goes -especially when the person in question goes abroad, where there is little face recognition.

Every airline based in India must frisk any traveling VVIP, if it is also frisking the common man. And the VVIP must sit down and enjoy it. If the VVIP feels outraged and creates a fuss then he must be detained. Indians are reluctant to do so. Most people have this fear of the VVIP, the feeling that they're better than us somehow. It was this servile mentality that got the Indian parliament attacked a few years ago. The parliamentarians felt insulted when their vehicles were checked. If India needs to be taken seriously as a democracy, we must reaffirm our commitment to the notion that all people are equal. Some are not more equal than others.

And let's come to the whining by King Khan, India's most famous actor, who was detained in Newark because his name appeared in a watch list. It happens to everyone, Mr. Khan. You are not alone. Don't whine about it. None of your fundamental rights were violated. America is justifiably worried about people who enter it (especially after 9/11). Increased security is probably the best way to deal with it - it creates only minimal inconvenience and does not kill people in far-away lands (like other methods adopted by the US do). The TSA dude screening you did not know who you were. He did not see your movies. It's possible. You're not that famous here. You're one of us. Deal with it.

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