We have yet another instance of a VVIP, this time Uttar Pradesh minister Azam Khan, being questioned by security officials at an American airport last month.
Apparently Khan was gently quizzed by a lady official for 10 minutes, the time normally taken by disembarking passengers to visit the loo, if there is a bit of a rush.
Usually, when they take you aside in the US, they strip you to the very minimum and beyond without even giving you a chance to join the bathroom rush. That can be uncomfortable after a long journey.
Khan suffered no such indignity, though he should be happy he now belongs to a long list of more distinguished Indians who have been double checked at American airports. They include Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Shahrukh Khan and Abdul Kalam, among others. Most have quietly carried on with their itineraries, except SRK, who timed the very public airing of his grievances with the release of a movie, which was good marketing strategy.
Azam Khan could have easily headed to Harvard along with Akhilesh Yadav, the chief minister of UP. Harvard University invited Akhilesh and Khan to speak about handling the Kumbh Mela, a logistical nightmare involving millions of God-fearing devotees who believe that a dip in the heavily polluted Ganga and Yamuna will cleanse them of sins for eternity, even if they have to deal with sores and skin disease in the immediate future.
The students of Harvard instead got to witness a firsthand case study of a purebred narrow-minded, vote-seeking, middle level Indian politician at his rabid best. This will be helpful to anybody wanting do business with India. They will need to know how to deal with lawmakers such as Khan. They abound.
Indian politicians, as we know and probably Harvard found out the hard way, thrive on any opportunity for free political mileage. Khan sensed a global audience from Boston, an occasion to be on CNN, BBC and Times Now at the same time.
He went ballistic, linking the security episode to America’s imperialistic designs, specific anti-Muslim profiling at airports, and a weak Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, due to which he was targeted. Khan’s equally demented supporters joined the chorus deriding US authorities and Singh.
Manmohan, for once, reacted rightly by keeping silent. President Obama, who already has his hands full dealing with deranged kids in America, probably thought Khan was a supporter of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf seeking asylum.
Narendra Modi probably thought it was a stupid idea to fly all the way to America when 3-D video conferencing could have worked better. Rahul Gandhi probably feels Khan should undertake a train journey to know the real America.
Though there is some truth about Muslims being targeted at US airports. Khan clearly went overboard in trying to kill 10 political birds with one stone, including cancelling the Harvard lecture. Ideally he should have lodged a formal complaint, used the toilet and carried on with his program.
Instead, the students of Harvard, luckily or unluckily, also got a glimpse of India’s overbearing VVIP culture that is very touchy about having their way, including walking in and out of Indian airports and aircrafts unchecked and unhindered as if they are visiting a restaurant in a mall or a movie hall.
Common Indian citizens, of course, have to submit themselves to a physical rub down at these locations by semi-literate, ill-trained, lowly paid security guards derived from impoverished areas such as Bihar, who spend most of their day scratching, smoking and chewing tobacco. It is not hygienic.
The Indian VVIP culture reflects an attitude of superiority, invincibility and treating common citizens like dirt. It thrives on trampling rule of law, abuse of power and treating of tax payers’ money as a personal savings account with free unlimited withdrawals. The VVIPs can be ministers, bureaucrats, police officials, Mukesh Ambani, or goons protected by the state due to connections or money.
One manifestation of high handedness is witnessed on Indian roads everyday where traveling VVIPs accompanied by an entourage of SUVs stuffed with heavily armed security personnel menacingly weave their way through heavy traffic at high speeds. They jump red lights, don’t line up at the toll and expect everybody else to quickly move aside or else abuse and assault with impunity. In India, ambulances get caught in traffic, never a VVIP convoy and Domino’s pizza home delivery.
This article originally appeared on Mocking Indian’s blog.