Amid outrage over actor Shah Rukh Khan’s two-hour detention at a New York airport,India today said “detention and apology” have become a habit with the US,which cannot continue. The Indian ambassador was asked to take up the matter with Washington. By evening,the US apologised to Khan for “any inconvenience”.
Khan,who was on his way to address students at Yale University,was detained by immigration officials after he landed at White Plains Airport in a private aircraft at around 12.30 pm local time on Thursday. The airport is 53 km from Manhattan.
Khan was part of a group that included Nita Ambani. Everyone except Khan was cleared immediately. Khan was given immigration clearance after over two hours following intervention by the Consulate General of India in New York.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna,who is in Moscow for a trilateral with his Russian and Chinese counterparts,reacted strongly,saying the US habit of “detention and apology” would not do.
A source in the ministry said in Delhi,”Repeated problems for the same person,followed by clearance on account of consulate intervention and a mechanical apology is not adequate.” Khan was stopped at Newark airport in 2009.
According to sources,SRK’s name was “flagged” in the airport’s system,and officers needed the approval of “senior” authorities before they could clear him.
“More than an apology will have to take place,” Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla said what had happened was “not appropriate”.
BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain,who has himself been subjected to secondary screenings at US airports,said the US attitude was “not acceptable”,and that he “condemned” it.
In the evening,US embassy spokesperson Peter Vrooman apologised to Khan for “any inconvenience” he might have faced.
“Please allow me on behalf of our diplomatic mission in India to apologise if Mr Shah Rukh Khan experienced an inconvenience or delay yesterday in White Plains,New York on his way to Yale University,” he told reporters in Delhi in a prepared statement.
Vrooman said many Americans are great fans of Indian movies and respect the work of the “great actor” Khan. He said the US Department of Homeland Security was making an effort to put in place systems that could help address circumstances faced by Khan or any other traveller.
The US strives to welcome all “legitimate” travellers to the US warmly,he said.
In the evening,India summoned the US deputy chief of mission Donald Lu over the matter.