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Arrogant VIP culture has no buyers abroad, Mr Azam Khan!

Last updated on: April 29, 2013 13:37 IST

Arrogant VIP culture has no buyers abroad, Mr Azam Khan!

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Some sort of VIP culture exists everywhere. India's, however, is unique in its pervasiveness and its arrogance. And, while unique, it isn't really something that can be exported.

Witness the outrage of Azam Khan, urban development minister in the Uttar Pradesh government and senior leader of the ruling Samajwadi Party, at being taken aside at Boston's Logan Airport to be asked a few questions.

By all accounts, the questioning was formal and dry, the female officer asking the questions limiting it to 10 minutes.

However, Khan apparently lost his temper nevertheless, accusing the officer of profiling him on the basis of his religion.

While anger caused by the irritation of the moment is perhaps excusable, neither Khan nor the Samajwadi Party seems to be willing to let saner counsel prevail subsequently.

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Arrogant VIP culture has no buyers abroad, Mr Azam Khan!

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Both he and his boss, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, refused to appear at a function organised by Harvard students to discuss the resounding success of the Mahakumbh Mela in Allahabad, the formidable organisation of which was largely run by Khan.

Yadav, in high dudgeon, also forced the cancellation of a reception in his honour by a local Indian consulate.

There are several ways in which this is problematic.

India's VIPs are accustomed to being treated with kid gloves, after all -- Khan made headlines in December when he was accused of abusing and perhaps physically assaulting a railway worker because he felt the bedrolls he had been provided on the Punjab Mail were insufficiently clean for a person of his importance.

When those expecting such treatment visit other countries, where such behaviour is frowned on -- even US senators and high officials of its government submit meekly to questioning at that country's airports -- then the degree of their entitlement becomes clearly visible.

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Arrogant VIP culture has no buyers abroad, Mr Azam Khan!

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This is not to say that Khan is not partly deserving of sympathy -- after all, the United States' terrorist watchlist is generally known to be something of a joke, and the security agents who man it are generally so under-trained as to be unable to tell one Muslim name from another, or even to distinguish famous actors from hardened terrorists.

Various movie-star Khans -- Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Irrfan Khan -- have all been stopped at US airports, as has former president Abdul Kalam Azad.

If the US can't tell such well-known personalities from terrorist threats, then the imagination does not need to work very hard to picture how more regular individuals are treated.

That being said, Khan should have recognised that his VIP status within India should not protect him from questioning.

Immigration and security agents have to satisfy themselves that not only is the individual in question no threat, but he is carrying nothing that could be.

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Image: The logo on the sweater of a Transportation Security Agency (TSA) officer is seen at Washington's Reagan National Airport outside Washingto
Photographs: Reuters

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Khan should have submitted with good grace at the time -- and then raised the injustice of what he saw as religious profiling in the correct time and place, and making it clear that it was a violation of fairness that bothered him, and not the insult to his dignity.

He has done none of that.

Worse, Yadav, in trying to magnify the "insult", is playing the pettiest sort of politics, highlighting a xenophobic and anti-American strain in the Lohiaite SP that many had hoped he would take the party beyond.

Messrs Yadav and Khan -- and all the other VIP Indians who have been at some point treated like "ordinary" Indian citizens by foreign security -- may attack other countries like the US for what they do wrong, but should refrain from attacking them for what they do right, as in ignoring VIP culture.


Photographs: Reuters

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