I cannot seem to open any major newspaper these days – Indian or US – without hearing how badly Shah Rukh Khan (SRK from here on) was treated by US immigration authorities. The New York Times has an article on how it overshadowed the celebrations for India’s independence Day, the Wall Street Journal says the incident “roils India” and even India’s Home Minister P. Chidambaram feels the need to comment that the US “overdid it.” Not to be left out of the limelight, Shashi Tharoor comments about SRK “reacted with great dignity”. When I read about SRK’s reaction, I personally thought he reacted angrily, if anything.
Since Diwali is months away, some Congress party workers in UP decided to use this opportunity to burn Obama’s effigy while some other protestors in Mumbai decided to protest against Salman Khan’s comments on the SRK issue. I am sure we will soon find more protestors protesting against these protestors, and so on.
Some people have drawn parallels to Continental Airlines’ treatment of former President APJ Abdul Kalam. As someone who had a strong opinion on that issue and blogged about it, let me say that the two incidents are not at all similar. In the Continental case, the airline had no right to disregard an Indian Govt. rule on Indian soil and adopt its own regulations. In this case, the US is well within its right to question any visitor on its own soil.
So what is all the outrage about? Is it about racial profiling? Are people protesting that Muslims are being profiled, or that Indians are, or Indian Muslims are? Or is it specifically outrages that SRK, the demi-god of Indian cinema could be treated as anything but a demi-god by anyone?
Because if it is the questioning that people are objecting to, that is not really news. There have been many reported instances of Indians being questioned, whether Muslims or not, and I haven’t heard any objection from the Home Minister for any of these incidents.
If India is going to use this opportunity to take up with the US immigration procedures that can be improved, why not start with issues that are affecting thousands of Indians? Take, for instance, the issue of security clearance for Indian students and work visa holders which sometimes takes months these days, inconveniencing them and throwing all study/ work plans in disarray. I am sure thousands of Indian citizens have been affected by this, but I haven’t heard the Home Minister take up this issue with the US. I haven’t even heard him publicly comment on this issue. Why not?
SRK says he doesn’t feel like “stepping on US soil again”. Well, that’s his choice and he is free not to visit the US again. But for thousands of Indians who are employed by software companies in India and sent to the US, it’s not a choice they can make. How are they supposed to sympathize with him, tell me? Besides, if SRK really wants to have a serious discussion about profiling, how does his deciding to stay away from the US solve the issue for everyone?
At the end of the day, I don’t get the impression that SRK is angry at the profiling, I get the impression he is angry that He was questioned. I can also understand why he would like to blow up this incident into a big issue – for it is very welcome publicity for his upcoming film which talks about racial profiling. This is the best thing that could have happened to that film.
So I can see why SRK would act offended. What I fail to understand is – what is it exactly that the rest of those protestors find offensive?