SP protests ‘humiliation’ of Azam Khan at Boston airport

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Azam Khan, Senior Minister, Up
Photo: Pramod Adhikari

The Samajwadi Party today lodged a protest with the Central government over the alleged humiliation and undue frisking of Uttar Pradesh minority welfare and urban development minister Azam Khan at the Boston airport in USA. Khan is reported to have created a ruckus at the immigration area of the airport, saying he was detained because he was a Muslim and sought an apology from the officer who said she was merely doing her duty.

But this is not the first incident where Khan has had an argument with the security personnel at a public place. On the morning of 24 April, Khan had had a similar argument with the security personnel at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. Munnawar Saleem, Rajya Sabha MP of the Samajwadi Party, a protégé of Khan, had gone to the IGI airport to see off the SP ministers, including Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. The MP tried to enter the VIP lounge where the CM and the ministers were sitting. But the security personnel prevented the MP from entering the VIP lounge, forcing Khan to intervene. Though Khan had a heated exchange with the security staff, they did not let Saleem enter the VIP lounge.

Irked by the behavior of the security staff, Saleem has shot off a letter to Prime Minister, copies of which have also been sent to the Union Home Minister, Civil Aviation Minister and the Secretary General of Rajya Sabha.

In his letter, he has said that alleged that the security personnel did not allow him to go to the VVIP lounge even after showing his Rajya Sabha identity card. Alleging discrimination on the grounds of religion, Saleem said, “I was denied entry in the VIP lounge at the airport since I was wearing salwar suit and had a beard. The conduct of the security staff at the IGI airport with a Muslim MP of the Rajya Sabha raises serious question over the secular credentials of the Indian republic.”

Saleem wrote that Khan came to his rescue and objected to the behavior by the security staff. Khan told the security staff, “If a MP is the victim of their hatred, then their behavior with a common Muslim could easily be imagined”. The security officer objected to the charge leveled by the minister but refused Saleem an entry in the VIP lounge.

In December last year, he had slapped a coach attendant of Punjab Mail at Rampur in UP, and had forced him to do 50 sit-ups. The coach attendant Nirmal Murmu had committed the fault of not arranging the bedding properly in the First AC compartment for the minister.

The FIR of the incident was lodged at the Amritsar GRP police station. Coach attendant Nirmal Murmu has alleged in his complaint that on 18 December, he was “beaten, forced to hold his ears and do sit-ups more than 50 times and was also made a hostage in the running Punjab Mail train compartment between Rampur and Lucknow stations.”

Meanwhile on Friday, the SP members in the Rajya Sabha also staged a protest over the issue leading to adjournment of the house today. The Indian consulate in USA has taken up the issue with their US counterpart and sought a clarification.

Khan was detained for about ten minutes for ‘further questioning’ at Boston Logan International Airport on Wednesday after he landed in a scheduled British Airways flight from India. The Urban Development Minister is in the US along with Yadav to attend a symposium on south Asia at Harvard University, to make a presentation on the recently concluded ‘Kumbh Mela’ at Allahabad. Sources said that when the visiting team landed at the airport, the Immigration and Border Protection officials accorded due courtesy and respect at the arrival point and even helped them in filling the arrival forms for entry into the US.

They were received and escorted by the officials of the Consulate General of India in New York and after they were cleared for entry, an officer of the US Customs and Border Protection wing of the Homeland Security took Khan to an adjacent room ‘for further questioning.’ The extended interview lasted for ten minutes and the Minister was then cleared.

Taking serious exception of the frisking and extended questioning of their leader Azam Khan at Boston airport by the Homeland Security in USA, the Samajwadi Party today said that the humiliation of a Muslim leader in the US was a matter of deep concern for the party.

As a protest against his humiliation, Khan has reportedly cancelled all his programmes in the US, except the lecture and presentation about the Kumbh Mela, at the South Asian Institute, Harvard University.

However, officials from Khan’s office refuted that the minister was cutting short his visit to the US. The minister will complete his tour as per the schedule though he could skip the dinner and lunch hosted by the US officials,” sources said while claiming that the minister would return along with the CM on 29 April.

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Special Correspondent (Lucknow)

Virendra Nath Bhatt is a post graduate in Economics. Started career as journalist in 1982, by contributing for a couple of Hindi dailies of Lucknow and Bareilly and also Jansatta of Delhi. Joined the English daily `The Pioneer in 1990 and later shifted to National Herald. After one year joined as correspondent for the Onlooker Magazine published from Bombay in 1991. In 1995 again joined The Pioneer in 1995 and worked till 2007. In December joined Indian Express Luck now. In September 2011 joined Tehelka. Bhatt has extensively covered parliament and assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh since 1985 and also the Ramjanma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute in Ayodhya and the movement for social justice – the social strife against the implementation of the Mandal commission report in August 1990.

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