Former Indian envoy to the US Nirupama Rao said on Friday Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who was detained briefly at the Los Angeles airport on Thursday, was not “personally targeted” by security staff and that they were just doing their job.
Khan’s Thursday detention, the third time in recent years, was possibly for a close match with an entry on the United States terror watchlist. The actor, whose 2010 film My Name is Khan dealt with racial profiling in the US, was eventually allowed to go after which he tweeted out his reaction.
“The ground level staff, who handle the security, are trained to follow the set rules and protocols. And they usually do just that and don’t make a distinction among various passengers. That is how they are trained. Nor would they are expected to know the status of every passenger,” Rao told Hindustan Times.
“Unless they are forewarned about the arrival of Shah Rukh Khan, the security staff wouldn’t know about his status. There is a difference between the standing a person enjoys in his home country and when he visits the US,” she said.
The former foreign secretary added that “unfortunately Muslims have come under greater” scrutiny in the US though she doesn’t think the Khan episode so far smacks of anything like security staff “personally targeting the actor.”
Passengers, who are subjected to extra security screening, are often selected randomly, she added.
Rao said airports across the world, all the more so in the US, are on a heightened security alert following the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York. She said the Los Angeles airport is an entry point for passengers entering the US from many countries, and that would naturally warrant the high alert.
“There is a zero tolerance policy when it comes to following security measures. That’s how it works.”
Khan was detained by US immigration at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey for about two hours in 2009 after his name came up on a terror alert list. He was travelling to the US at the time to publicise his movie My Name Is Khan, ironically about racial profiling of Muslims in the US.
He was then detained in 2012 at Westchester County airport near New York while travelling in a private jet with Nita Ambani, wife of business magnate Mukesh Ambani. At the time, the star had been invited to deliver a lecture at Yale University.
“Whenever I start feeling too arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America,” he had then said in his address to students at Yale. “The immigration guys kicked the star out of stardom.”