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America's herd mentality

It may be standard procedure in the US. But tagging Indians duped by Americans is not on.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2011 23:14 IST

Even before we could relegate the attacks on Indian students in Australia to the dustbin of history, Indians are once again facing humiliation - this time in the United States. According to reports, authorities in the US have confiscated the passports of students enrolled in the California-based Tri-Valley University and radio-tagged some of them to track their movement after they exposed the educational institution to be a fake one. Although New Delhi has condemned the appalling treatment of Indian citizens being radio-tagged and has asked for stern action against the erring officers, a serious damage in the way Indians are treated in the US has been committed. It's true that once the institution was found to be a dud, the status of the 'students' - for that is what they were for American immigration officials as well as the Indians themselves when they entered the US - was that of illegal visitors. But considering that the fault for this mess lies within the US and because the racket was conducted by Americans, it seems mighty suspicious that the duped Indians are being made to take the rap. On top of it is the treatment meted out to them as criminals with tags. Switch positions and have a bunch of Americans found to be duped by a non-existent yoga instruction centre here and you know what the consequences would have been if Indian authorities had cuffed radio-tags around their limbs.

Immigration and visa laws must be allowed to take their own course. We understand that. But radio-tagging? It would have been suffice to send the duped Indians back to our shores considering that their passports had been impounded by the immigration authorities. Union minister of overseas Indian affairs Vayalar Ravi, after making the usual noises, said the US officials "should not tie any radio tag on their body... [as it is] very heavy and it is impossible to carry". As usual, our authorities are barking up the wrong tree. These devices are used in cases of criminals on parole. So the tags, whether 'heavy' and 'impossible to carry' or not, are not for use on people from other countries who have been enticed into entering America and then left to fend on their own. It becomes very, very difficult in such a scenario not to think of 'racial tagging' being imposed in 'the land of the free and the home of the brave'.

The Indian government, on its part, should stop waffling and tell its counterpart to stop its freakshow with Indian cast members. The US needs to acknowledge that it has got things wrong when it let these 'unauthorised' foreigners from India into its borders. It would help matters tremendously if authorities here in India could provide a one-stop window where prospective students can ascertain whether the institutions in which they plan to enroll are kosher or not before they leave the country. But before that, we await an apology to those unfortunate Indians from the authorities who think they're dealing with illegal migrants who've crossed over the Mexican border.