We Boorish Indians!
Maxwell Pereira


Recalling memories of thirty years ago, perhaps the one thing good about the ‘emergency’ was it disciplined to an extent us the Indian people. In the sudden transformation, people then reached their offices on time, stood in queues – even at bus stops, obeyed traffic rules more than usual. There was an air of fear against disobeying a rule, violating law and giving the enforcer a reason to nab you – for consequences fearfully and expectedly unpredictable.

It is another matter being not a people who like discipline thrust down our throats at the end of a danda – we rallied round to overthrow the emergency in nineteen months to restore our ‘freedoms’ …..unfortunately, to be able to violate yet again with impunity!

At a dinner last week an indignant former bureaucrat’s wife accosted me, “do you think it is right for the Indian government to seek an apology from the Dutch for the treatment meted out to twelve fellow Indians?”

“Hell… NO!” was my answer. “Not with the potential our Indian blood has for boorish behaviour, our propensity to disregard all accepted norms, rule and regulation, our utter disrespect for the rule of law, and our bottomless capacity to violate and cock a snook unabashedly at those who observe rules.

The 12 Indians from aboard the Northwest Airline detained by the Dutch authorities for their behaviour, had flouted rules that commonly apply to passengers in all airlines. Reportedly between them they had 60 cellphones, in overflowing cabin hand-baggage. Against rules they switched them on even while the plane was climbing, passed them around and swapped seats violating the ‘fasten seat belt’ regulations during take off – despite repeated announcements asking them to desist from doing so and efforts of marshals on board to push them back into their seats. They were disgustingly loud and boorish much to the inconvenience and annoyance of co-passengers.

These were reasons enough for security marshals on board to suspect them of anti-social intent, to turn around and return to take-off point after alerting ground authorities of likely terrorists on board. Normal drill thereafter – incapacitate the suspects, isolate, question and verify them, their activity and their antecedents. The Dutch proved to be efficient and decisive, unlike us; for they cleared the twelve, apologised for seemed over-reaction and facilitated their onward journey with convenience, all within 24 hours.

None of the 12 spoke of their own boorish behaviour and activity that contributed to the security personnel’s decision branding them as suspected terrorists. If they did, our media conveniently ignored it – selective as we are when facts do not suit our agenda. Instead, our media was quick to record in graphic detail their fear and trauma, the harassment of unwarranted hand-cuffing and detention. The nightmare of being shifted to a prison with their belongings confiscated – mobiles, laptops et al, and incarceration in claustrophobic cells the size of 3x3 with no toilet.
It was not the Dutch authorities who took the decision on their behaviour as violative of airline security practices; the authorities on the ground were only conveyed the decisions taken in-flight – that there were suspected terrorists on board. Would we have reacted differently if an airline in our airspace had reported to ground authorities the presence of terrorists on board? No.

Would we have been so gracious or decent in similar circumstances? No, we would have trumped up false charges to detain the suspects beyond limits permitted  by law, and procrastinated by passing the buck around for someone else to take a decision to let them free even after finding nothing adverse against them. We don’t have to climb the skys to get a taste of what happens at our end. Just ask the scores of those who inadvertently stray into our VIP routes or the prime minister’s car-cade on the treatment meted out to them. Most do not recover from the shocking experience for life! I recall an incident when an elderly Justice out on his walk on Rajaji Marg was ordered, “Budde, bagh!”. And that was decades before the era of terrorism!

All 12 who experienced the Dutch treatment happened to be Muslims, and as is the bane of our media, in one voice we hastened to conclude they were being targeted because of prejudicial passenger-profiling – their skin-colour and religion, particularly aimed at Indians. Inferiority complex ridden people that we are, some even questioned whether a white skin would have been subjected to the same treatment – conveniently ignoring earlier reported incidents involving whites treated similarly or worse.

What beats me is the irresponsible behaviour on the part of the 12 on the heels of the recent Heathrow roundups that triggered off the unprecedented terrorist scare in air travel across the world – down right foolhardy and stupid. A fact everyone has ignored is the inconvenience suffered also by the rest of the passengers in the plane, because of the suspect behaviour of these 12.

A lesson for us all – all Indians, not Muslims alone. High time we shed our “don’t care, chalta hai” attitudes and conform to accepted societal norms with concern for the neighbour. We live in times of stress, when panic reactions are the order of the day. With a little discipline, we could steer ourselves clear of troubled waters. We Indians need to learn that rules and laws are to be obeyed!

In the fallout of the Amsterdam treatment to the dozen Indian suspected ‘terrorists’ there appears a silver lining – should I dare say a good side to terrorism too! For this may yet teach the Indian to be a bit more disciplined.

4.09.2006: Copyright © Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com TOP

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