Has the SRK detention story been overblown?
Recently, bollywood superstar ShahRukh Khan (SRK) was detained for a little over 1 hour (according to the US authorities, 2 hours according to Indian news sources) in an American airport when he was travelling to perform in a show. It has been attributed to his Muslim name and is said that the Indian government had to apply diplomatic measures to release him. A lot of furor has been created since and heated comments from SRK and his supporters have been coming.
Profiling people based on their names, religion, country of origin, race etc is totally wrong. Worse is the unlawful detention, extra-judicial powers to law authorities, surveillance and the increasing attack on freedoms and civil liberties. This escalated after 9/11 and has been continuing unabated since. Many other countries have joined the league and freedom of people all over the world is being restricted day by day.
SRK isn’t an isolated case. On 15th August, a similar fate met Bob Dylan. Though SRK mighet be more popular than Hollywood actors, Dylan’s personality and role in the rights-movement some decases ago and in the protest of Vietnam war are stuffs legends are made of. A few years ago, a famous singer Cat Stevens who is a Islam-convert was deported after being denied entry to the US, also because of his Muslim name. Unlike SRK, he’s one of “them”, the western world. Studies by civil liberty groups claim that more than 5% of the American population itself is kept on a possible terrorist-suspect list and are subjected to harrassment at airports. A foreign minister of Hugo Chavez was “threatened and shoved” by airport officials, even after informing them of his identity. Even Nelson Mandela was (there have been reports that his name has since been removed) on a terrorist watch list prepared by the FBI which contiues to grow longer and longer every day. Similarly, names of many American leaders and people are also there.
IndiaTimes blog has an entry that requests not to make a big deal over the SRK case. In my experience, South Asia in itself is a very racist place with the North-Indians in India and the residents of Kathmandu being the most frequent offenders I’ve seen. Sometime ago, a racist slur was made on an Indian Idol from North-Eastern India belonging to a Nepali-speaking community by a Mumbai FM RJ. In my observation, such behaviour is common, especially in the Indian capital, to North-Eastern Indians, Bhutanis and Nepalese of mongolian origin. Dinesh Wagle echoes my observations in a recent article. Kathmandu-residents are very intolerant of anybody from outside the valley and especially the Terai.
In my opinion, racism in any form, any where is deplorable. Such activities remind of colonial days. It is a good thing that India has risen to the capacity of defending its citizens even at the world’s sole superpower – maybe this reckons of days when it will stop being the sole-superpower. However, the basic flaw is in the state of civil liberties worldwide. Unless this realisation dawns, getting emotional over SRK issue may be benefitial to his upcoming movie that is said to be based on similar issues, but it will make no significant change on the way things are.
They were never different. Just because SRK is SRK, expecting them to change is only stupid. The issue has been overblown.