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Brown, bearded and terror-struck

india Updated: Apr 24, 2007 01:39 IST
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Little had I known that the bloated World Cup had another bizarre twist in store for me.

Having come here to write on cricket, I had already been pitchforked into sending dispatches on a murder most foul. But even in my nightmares, I had not imagined I would ever be unceremoniously bundled into a police car and interrogated at a police station for an hour, being treated all the time like a criminal.

On Sunday, I was picked up from a local eatery for “arousing suspicion”, asked whether I was a Muslim (possibly because I sport a beard) and if I was not Muslim, whether I drank. At the end of it all, I was told that my interrogation was part of security measures to combat “terrorism”.

So what if I was carrying my World Cup media identity card? The police did not even want to look at it. When they eventually did, it made no difference to them. “I have seen them being made here,” one of the policemen later said.

Mid-Day’s Sanjeev Samyal, with whom I had gone to the eatery, was later picked up from the Hilton Hotel on the same grounds.

My bag was searched thoroughly and pictures on my digital camera vetted.

We were both asked similar questions. “How do you know each other?” “Do you always go to the Hilton together”. I was also asked, “Why have you taken so many pictures of local people?”

What made the experience worse was the feeling that it was our complexion that made us seem “suspicious”. There were black and white people at the hotel but none of them obviously “aroused suspicion”. We were brown.

At least the Barbados tourism authority realised how damaging the episode could be to the country’s image. Later in the day, the authority’s vice-president, Petra Roach, apologised to us — for what was not her fault.