Celebrity security ordeals

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

2009-08-19

I'm tired of hearing people getting worked up about the "demeaning and humiliating" treatment that some celebrity or the other occasionally suffers at the hands of airport (or other) security personnel, because they usually demand more respect for important people, or fewer complaints from them.

Two recent examples: former Indian president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam being frisked before boarding a Continental Airlines flight bound for Newark despite his VVIP status exempting him from security checks, which provoked outrage and demands to ban the airlines in Parliament; and actor Shah Rukh Khan being detained for a couple of hours on arrival at Newark airport, which at first made him not want to "set foot on US soil again", but which he later said was "nothing" compared to what Kalam had faced.

Some people have written in to newspapers saying that celebrities should be treated like everyone else and that they shouldn't object to security procedures. I agree with the first part, but I vehemently disagree that security procedures should be accepted by all as a fait accompli. Nobody should be subjected to the humiliating and farcical "security theater" that international travel has devolved into these days.

Until then, however, perhaps it would be best if celebrities were treated especially poorly at airports, considering how much more media attention their complaints attract.

As an aside, I liked this letter to the Editor of The Hindu from J. Victor Rajasekaran of Chennai.

The Newark incident was undoubtedly a matter of humiliation for SRK and a rude shock for lakhs of Indians. The Americans and other westerners are clearly racial [sic].
[…]
How prejudiced the westerners are! They should learn a lesson or two from us. Look at the way we treat our fellow citizens. Look, for instance, at the case of the Dalit youth who was beaten up on Thursday in Tamil Nadu by caste Hindus for riding a bicycle. Let us feel proud to be Indians.