Monday, April 23, 2007

WORLD CUP DIARY: Terrorists-in-disguise

Yesterday, a couple of our colleagues from India found out exactly what the western world's ongoing witchhunt/prejudice/nonsense against people from the South Asian region is about. Two of the many Indian sports journalists here in the Caribbean - in Barbados, to be exact - Atreyo Mukhopadhyay of The Hindustan Times and Sanjjeev Samyal of Mid-Day, were picked up for interrogation by the police in Barbados for no apparent reason and harassed for over an hour each.

Here is how the story unfolded (from Atreyo's account; Sanjjeev is writing the story for his paper even as I write this):

They were both at the Hilton hotel where outgoing England coach Duncan Fletcher had a press conference. They hung around for a while trying to speak to other cricketers, after which Atreyo left for a nearby beach, while Sanjjeev stayed on. Atreyo reached a nearby public beach - Pebble Beach - made for a shack and sat down with a beer. At this stage some locals approached him, showed him their identification cards, and told him that he would have to go to the police station for an 'interrogation'. Why, Atreyo asked. Your behaviour at the Hilton was suspicious, he was told. Handcuffs were produced for him to wear. He refused. Fortunately, the fuzz accepted.

He was taken to the police station. And soon after he reached, Sanjjeev was also brought in. He had been picked up from the hotel itself.

After this, they were separately questioned for over an hour. They were asked (a) why they were at the Hilton, (b) why they were making so many phone calls while at the Hilton, (c) how they knew each other if they stayed in different cities in India, (d) why they had beards, etc. The police frisked their bags, checked their digital cameras and scanned all the photographs, checked their emails, tape recorders, laptops, etc. They both had photographs of locals and of local locales. They were asked why they had taken these photographs. That sort of thing...

Now, they gathered during the interrogation that they were being suspected to be terrorists - South Asian complexion and beards!!! Atreyo has a beard. Sanjjeev doesn't. What else do you need?

Incidentally, Atreyo was also asked if he was Muslim!!!

They were released later and have not been harassed since. They have obviously lodged a complaint with the World Cup organisers and with the Barbados authorities. But whether anything comes of that is way beside the point, isn't it?

What's happened here is a typical case of the western world's - I include the black locals in this, because somewhere, they don't have an identity of their own and have to fulfil the desires of their white American overlords - paranoia about the brown part of the world. I don't need to get into details of this, because we all know what the details are.

This, really, is outrageous. And this is about two journalists. What about the complete outsiders? We know stories of all the completely innocent people who are rounded up on various concocted charges. Surely we need to call the bluff at some stage!