For a country with an estimated 1.7 million autistic people, we are probably the most insensitive bunch of people. On Thursday, eleven-year-old Ahed was denied entry into the airport. Reason: he is autistic.
Ahed and his parents, Tamil actor Prithviraj and his wife Beena, were stopped at the security gate of the Bangalore airport. CISF inspector Bhavesh Kumar told them that Ahed could not board the Air Deccan flight to Chennai because he looked different.
Furious at this insinuation, Prithviraj asked the officer to explain the rules under which he was stopping his son. "The officer merely replied that there are rules, but could not quote any. He kept saying my son could be a threat to other passengers," Prithviraj told the Hindustan Times.
|AGITATED: Ahed with his parents Prithviraj and Beena|
"I started filming the argument and he kept blocking the camera lens. We had to argue for 30 minutes before the officer relented," Prithivraj said.
While his parents fought back vehemently, little Ahed kissed his mother repeatedly. Beena interpreted it as his way of saying, "It is all right. Don't worry."
This is not the first time Prithviraj has had to deal with such insensitive remarks about his son. An official at the Delhi airport once asked Prithviraj if his son was mad and the actor shot back: "You seem to be mad."
"We have never encountered such problems in Europe or other Asian countries," recalled Ahed's mother Bheena who runs a school for autistic children.
So has Prithviraj ever tried shoving a medical certificate at such ignorant officials? The actor said he once tried to get an autism certificate for his son from a medical authority in Delhi. "But autism has not been classified as a disability under the Disability Act. The authorities asked me if I could accept a certificate that labeled him mentally retarded," Prithviraj said.
The CISF, however, defended its official. And while doing so, its spokesman only betrayed his level of ignorance. He said the CISF officer was only following rules since international civil aviation rules do not permit a “mentally retarded person abroad an aircraft”.