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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Religious Profiling, Shahrukh Khan and I

I had failed to clear the Financial Management examination in the second semester (out of a total of four) of M. B. A. and was to re-appear for it along with the students of the following batch. However, their examinations were postponed by a few months, instead of being held along with those for my fourth semester. So, I had to vacate the hostel room and return home. The year was 1999.

As luck would have it, one of my batch-mates had been placed with an Internet service provider at Indore itself, after the completion of the post-graduate course in management. Since I had his address, I expected to put up with him for the day or two that I would spend in the city. When I got there, though, he had shifted residence but a neighbour was able to provide me with the new address. I did not find him at home there either and, since it was already rather late in the evening by then, decided to look for a hotel room. I found one near the hostel, which was good as I was familiar with the area, having lived there for nearly two years.

Soon after I had settled down to read a text-book, following dinner, there was a knock on the door. I opened it to find that three armed policemen, a sub-inspector and two constables, had come to visit me. They wanted to know the reasons for my presence in the city and when I told them about the examination, they asked for proof. As I was to collect the hall ticket/admission card for the examination from college the next day, I was at a loss for words. Some anxious thoughts crossed my mind during those few moments of silence.

For the uninitiated, it should be prudent to mention here that police in India are known to often detain people without formally arresting them for several days or even months. They have also been reported to use torture to extract 'confessions' and to declare those killed during 'interrogation' as 'dreaded terrorists' killed in 'fierce encounters' or to simply dump the corpses in canals or rivers.

In any case, I told them that I did not have the hall ticket/admission card. They asked whether I had any other form of proof and I pointed towards the book on the bed. Fortunately, it was sufficient to convince them and I felt relieved when they left.

Enquiries from members of the staff revealed later that the keepers of the law, summoned by a telephone call, had been to the hotel only to see me. They had specific instructions to inform the police whenever a Sikh, Muslim or Tamil came to stay.

Apparently, Mr. Shahrukh Khan, who was very distressed recently on account of being detained at an airport in the United States, simply because he is a Muslim, felt that way as he, being a film star, has probably never been subjected to religious or ethnic profiling in India, unlike mere mortals like me. I had been introduced to those concepts rather early in life.


Sidhusaaheb said...

Senator Ted Kennedy was searched in a humiliating way, so was the former President of India and now Shahrukh khan. These guys at the airports think they are gods. America should not allow that. There should be reprimand and prosecutions. A person has to be insane to think that either of these three could be a terrorist. I do believe that sensible American also do not wish such things to happen.
Shahrukh Khan should react and call upon his fans to boycott American products. One billion or three, the numbers are large enough. It will hurt and the American giant will feel the pinch on its very thick skin to react hopefully positively.
There is an opportunity here to help the average person and get things turn the correct way.
M J Syed | 08.19.09 – 3:30 pm | #


Whether SRK did it intentionally or…unknowingly He only knows. I just have one question “Was he going there for the first time?” He is a frequent traveller then how could he commit such mistake?

Healthiest Regards
Movies in Chennai
movies in Pune | Homepage | 08.20.09 – 12:08 pm | #


@M J Syed & Movies In Pune:

I wonder whether either of you read the blog-post before posting your respective comments.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 08.20.09 – 12:34 pm | #

Sidhusaaheb said...

Ok, it’s horrible and all that, but isn’t it also kinda exciting? I mean I’ve never ever been detained by cops although they did drop me home one night when I couldn’t find any other means of transport.
Deep | Homepage | 08.21.09 – 2:54 pm | #


but i guess when it happens all the time, it’s just insulting.
Deep | Homepage | 08.21.09 – 3:02 pm | #



Have you ever been sought out by the cops just because you are a Hindu and for no other reason whatsoever?

That is what Religious Profiling is.

As, in this case, the police were checking only the Sikh, Muslim or Tamil guests of the hotel. The first two instances can be categorised under Religious Profiling and the third under Ethnic Profiling.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 08.21.09 – 4:15 pm | #


No, I did read the blog and I was thinking – may be Sidhusaaheb will say the same thing to me .. that I did not read his blog posting.

the point I was trying to make was similar to yours .. we mortals get profiled and move on but when these larger than life ones get to face the realities of day to day business in the world they cry foul. I am sure Mr Khan must have been profiled or at least known people around him that did face some of those harsh realities when he was the Jamia boy. But its surprizing how soon we get used to our new (confortable) life totally forgetting the experiences of the past.
naam main kya rakha hai | 08.21.09 – 5:38 pm | #


@Naam Main Kya Rakha Hai:

In my opinion, no law-abiding citizen should be subjected to Religious or Ethnic or Racial Profiling. Every one should be either subjected or not subjected to the same security procedures, regardless of religion or ethnicity or race.

From the point of view of law enforcement, too, it is supposed to be counter-productive, since it often tends to alienate those subjected to it, on account of the humiliation caused to them.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 08.21.09 – 7:05 pm | #


Sidhusaaheb said...

Liked your blog Sidhu. You are right everyone does some kind of profiling. Some do that on the base of race and color, others do it on the basis of names and nationality.
And it is difficult when you face it first time,at that time you don’t understand should you joke about it or report against it.
Some time I think I don’t mind it atleast it allows me a safe travel other times I just question if it even helps anyone.
Mohsen | Homepage | 08.22.09 – 3:03 am | #



When the policemen came to question only me, out of all the guests that were staying at the hotel, what was the implication? Was it not that out of all those people, only I had the potential to be a criminal, simply because I follow a different religious faith?

I feel insulted, every time.

As I have written above, in my opinion, the same rules and procedures should apply to every one, regardless of religion or ethnicity or race.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 08.22.09 – 1:18 pm | #

Sidhusaaheb said...

good summarization:
http://blogs.timesofindia.indiat…ould-learn- from

What SRK should learn from Kalam
M J Akbar Sunday August 23, 2009

A celebrity is blessed with good fortune in many ways. A reporter, for instance, has to search for news. A celebrity merely has to look into the mirror. Such self-obsession requires sensational amorality and phenomenal lack of judgment. Ordinary, guilt-obsessed mortals do not possess these virtues.

A celebrity must have talent, of course, but brains are useless without gall. It requires courage to fall irrevocably in love with your image. It must be dreadfully tense to watch each step you take with such missionary commitment, but the rewards are probably worth the effort. The tiniest twitch now resides beside perceived, or stolen, wisdom, on Twitter, the miracle technology of celebdom. Pseudo-gods seek the pseudo-faithful as fervently as the reverse.

You have to be sure-footed to walk on air. The smallest ethereal miscalculation can bring you painfully down to earth. Shah Rukh Khan mobilized the resources of the Government of India when American customs and border security authorities treated him as just another human being.

This is not his first visit to the States, so there must have been some reason for the fact that this was the first time he was detained. As it turns out, the US government did have some reasonable questions about Shah Rukh’s hosts.

Old royalty used to treat an insult as high treason. What is fit punishment for the humiliation of modern divinity? A finger-wagging press conference by a mere cabinet minister seems inadequate for a mobile genius who charges crores of rupees for dancing at a wedding. Frenzy across content-starved TV channels is more like it, but we must not fetter our imagination. Perhaps India should recall its ambassador from Washington and abandon the nuclear deal unless the American secretary for homeland security is sacked?

No one likes racial profiling, even when done by an arbitrary computer. The incomparable computer seems to have not only altered the dimensions of time and space in our lives, but is now beginning to create a classless society of victims as well. Karl Marx would have been delighted by this communist child of capitalism. Shah Rukh has no complaint against the computer, however. He was furious at the inflexibility of the customs officer. Indian celebrities have created such a self-mesmerizing caste system of egos that they find any challenge difficult to comprehend.

Every celebrity is famous, but everyone famous is not a celebrity. Former president Abdul Kalam did not turn his cellphone into an advertising agency when confronted with an overzealous American security drill while boarding a commercial aircraft in Delhi, although he may have been within his rights to do so. President Kalam lived in the real world even when he was in Rashtrapati Bhawan. H
Naam Main Kya Rakha Hai | 08.24.09 – 3:02 pm | #


There appears to be a vital difference between what President Kalaam and SRK had to go through.

President Kalaam was frisked, it seems, like any other passenger. On the other hand, Shahrukh Khan was drawn out of line and questioned for nearly 2 hours, mainly on account of his last-name/surname being Khan. Therefore, I do not agree with Mr. M. J. Akbar.

BTW, I am not and never have been a celebrity and I still felt insulted, when I was the only hotel guest to be questioned (even though I was lucky enough to escape a worse fate), simply on account of the fact that I practise a particular religious faith.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 08.24.09 – 4:20 pm | #

Sidhusaaheb said...

It is offennsive no doubt.. but from an immigration point of view..why should SRK be given any waiver ?? And am sure that this wasnt his first time…and for reasons known to him..he chose to blow it up this time…he should get a life and face the real world..
Anonymous | 09.10.09 – 2:05 am | #


What if it was indeed the first time that he received such ’special treatment’ and he was treated as any other traveller on earlier occasions?

As far as I am aware, he was not given a ‘waiver’ and detained for nearly two hours.

From an immigration point of view, all travellers should be treated alike, irrespective of the religious faith they follow.

BTW, the blog-post is as much about my own experience as SRK’s.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 09.10.09 – 10:45 am | #


Sidhusaaheb….when i was travelling to USA from HKG i was detained for half an hour almost with my 16 month old and my 6 yr old..I was asked irrelevant silly questions…When i asked them the reason..they said ” Random” duh uh ! profiling ” South East Asian” ..and i cant blame them for this…. South East Asian people ..they come to HKG as carriers and they smuggle illegal things…its “Random” and my luck was bad that i was detained…though the officials were nice to me and opologized for the inconvenience…Sidhusaheeb ..Its more like we are living in a bad world ..and will have to face it…like it or not..I am not saying it doesnt super hurts..i was mad but if i put myself in their shoes i dont seem to blame them..
Anonymous | 09.11.09 – 3:54 am | #


“A few South East Asians have been smugglers, so all South East Asians are likely to be smugglers.”

If you can agree with that (a clear case of Racial Profiling), then you and I can only agree to disagree.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 09.11.09 – 11:18 am | #


And all i can say is ” its good to diasgree”…truth hurts Siidhusaheb…

have a good sunday..cheers
Anonymous | 09.12.09 – 2:21 pm | #


It is good, indeed.

I can offer little help to assuage your hurt in this regard.

Wishing you the same!
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 09.12.09 – 3:27 pm | #