A high-profile Muslim professional has accused private airline SpiceJet of threatening to declare him a "security threat" citing his minority background after a quarrel at Delhi's airport, prompting the National Commission for Minorities (NCM) to put the airline on notice.
Mohd Ali Shah, the nephew of actor Naseeruddin Shah and son of a former army vice-chief, has alleged that he had been de-boarded by the airline after his checked-in luggage did not make it to the cargo hold of an aircraft on a scheduled flight to Guwahati on June 28.
The airline has denied the allegations as "incorrect" and "inaccurate" in a response to NDTV, which reported the airport incident.
NCM head Wahajat Habibullah said the minority rights watchdog could not immediately confirm the veracity of Shah’s claims since they were under probe.
"However, if true, this is serious and deplorable," Habibullah said.
Thirty-two-year-old Shah, a former army major now employed in the private sector, alleged that because his luggage was singled out for double check, he missed his flight.
"When I threatened to sue the airline, I was told that they could easily declare me a security threat because of my name," Shah told HT.
Shah’s father, Lt Gen Zameeruddin Shah, retired as the deputy chief of the Indian army and is at present vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University.
Many Muslims, from celebrities to ordinary individuals, often complain of religious prejudices. Bollywood personalities, such as Shabana Azmi, Emraan Hashmi and Saif Ali Khan Pataudi, have in the past said they faced difficulties buying homes because they were Muslims.
"There do exist two levels of profiling, one social and the other security-related. This is conditioned by a large number of prejudices. A certain amount cultural conformity is required for people who are a little culturally different," said Prof Rizwan Kaiser, who teaches history in Jamia Millia Islamia.
Tanweer Alam, a community worker in Delhi's Jamia locality, said for instance law-enforcing agencies maintained extra vigil in the area, often suspecting it to be a safe haven for criminals. Prof Kaizer said post-9/11 events had only reinforced such social profiling, which exists simultaneously with cross-community relationships between individuals.