An American national, Winston Marshall Carmichael (61), was detained at the IGI Airport for carrying a 4.3-inch blade in a rock in his hand baggage. He, however, says, he hasn’t committed any crime.
In an exclusive conversation with HT, Carmichael said he was “an intelligent, well-educated person” and “not a terrorist.” He said this was his first visit to India and that he was here “to serve god”.
He said he had no idea that there was a blade hidden in the shilajit rock (an ayurvedic medicine) he was carrying.
Carmichael, who converted to Islam 15 years ago, was on a visit to the subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) for the past four months as part of the Tablighi Jamaat—a group that propagates faith. Its members visit mosques and college campuses in small bands, preaching a return to purist Islam. He was living in Hazrat Nizamuddin for the past few days.
Carmichael was detained by the CISF on Wednesday during a security check. He was to board a Qatar Airways flight for USA, via Doha. When he couldn’t explain how the presence of the knife in his bag, he was handed over to the Intelligence Bureau. Till Thursday night, the intelligence agencies could not establish his “terror links.”
“The people at the airport security check told me there was a knife in my bag. I was sure I did not have any such thing. They took out a shilajit stone from my bag and said the blade was inside it. I told them it was not possible. They broke it open and took out the knife. I told them I had never used that portion of the stone where the blade was hidden,” he said.
Carmichael, who has been visiting Pakistan, Bangladesh and India for the past four months “to pray”, said he was detained for no reason.
“People capitalize on sensationalism. I have not committed any offence and was detained for no reason,” said Carmichael.
Before coming to Delhi, Carmichael visited Dhaka in Bangladesh. “His travel documents show that he came to Kolkata by road from Dhaka. Before that he was in Pakistan. On Wednesday, he was to fly back,” said an intelligence official.
Till he is not cleared, Carmichael will be lodged at the Lampur detention centre, run by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in northwest Delhi.
“When we asked Carmichael to take out the knife he feigned ignorance. We broke open the stone and found the 4.3 inch blade. He told us the stone was an ayurvedic substance and he had bought it in Pakistan,” said Udayan Banerjee, Director Inspector General, CISF.
“Concealment of the knife and information about it, not giving proper answers, made it imperative for us to hand him over to Delhi Police,” he added.