Kalam frisked twice, once inside aircraft, in US

Despite the international protocol followed by every country, former president APJ Abdul Kalam was checked twice by US officials. Tushar Srivastava reports. Security hassle

delhi Updated: Nov 13, 2011 09:30 IST
Tushar Srivastava
Tushar Srivastava
Hindustan Times

It was an Air India aircraft on September 29 at JFK airport in New York. The time was around 2pm. After everybody settled in for a long flight and the aircraft was about to begin taxiing, frantic security men forced the crew to open the doors.

They wanted to frisk one of the passengers.

The man they targeted had been screened once, although he should not have been at all, as he was the former president of India. AI officials protested. The security men finally relented, but took away the passenger's jacket and shoes. https://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/13_11_pg01a.jpg

They returned them later, satisfied that he was not a terrorist.

But it was not a new experience for APJ Abdul Kalam, who was president of India till July 25, 2007.

Despite the international protocol followed by every country, Kalam was humiliated in the same way two years ago, at the Delhi airport.

In April 2009, Kalam had been frisked by officials of US airliner Continental Airlines despite the fact that his name featured in the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security's list of people exempt from security checks in India.

Then, an upset aviation ministry had even considered filing a criminal case against the airline officials, but finally did not.

On the latest incident, sources close to Kalam said he did not attach any importance to such issues and always cooperated with security agencies without fuss.

A detailed report was sent to the aviation ministry by Satish Mathur, director, security, AI.

"The incident report was sent to the aviation ministry," said Mathur but refused to comment further.

A ministry official told Hindustan Times: "While US officials can check anyone in their country as the Indian exemption list is not applicable there, they should accord the same treatment we give visiting US dignitaries like a former president (George W Bush) who was here last week."

"Protests were lodged by the ministries of external affairs and civil aviation and we have received an apology. The US authorities have also ordered an inquiry," the official said.

The two sides are now working on a 'common list' of people who will be exempted from security checks.

First Published: Nov 13, 2011 00:50 IST