Friday, September 10, 2010


Strange episodes on the eve of 9/11, and Florida pastor Mr. Terry Jones is just one, though one that is highly publicized. Freedom of speech is a much talked about fundamental right in the US, so words of hatred can be swallowed if doused with a large dose of purgative speech directed to a very Western audience, for instance Mr. Obama saying, "This could increase the recruitment of individuals who'd be willing to blow themselves up in American cities, or European cities," and Ms. Clinton saying,"It is not who we are."

"We"? I wonder if that includes anything outside the US? Probably not. Probably not even everything within, as is evident from US foreign policy (and unfortunately often used by media and politicians to stir up trouble).

In another US state, an entirely different kind of drama has been unfolding. Based on news snippets, we gather that the Indian documentary film maker, Vijay Kumar has been imprisoned for the past 20 days, living on bread and water (as he is vegetarian and these are the only vegetarian foods served). His crime? Carrying brass knuckles in his checked in baggage, apparently for his protection (which is allowed by US federal laws but not by 'Texan' law). After his initial arrest, he was asked to surrender his passport in order to get bail. Immediately after he did this, his visa was revoked, he was detained by Immigration and Customs and imprisoned without the option of bail. If the case was resolved within 90 days, he could voluntarily leave the country otherwise he would be deported.

The Texans claimed that they also found 'Jihadi literature' in his bag. However, it turns out that Mr. Kumar was invited by the Hindu Congress of America to lecture at a peace meeting on interfaith discussions and the harms of terrorism.

Fortunately (!) the case came up for hearing a couple of days ago. Vijay Kumar did not contest the charges and agreed to voluntarily leave the US. In an interview, he appeared to be confused and initially scared at the treatment meted out to him.

The US government attorney opposed voluntary departure, citing threat to national security, on the grounds that Vijay Kumar's luggage might contain explosive residues. However, the judge pointed out that an examination of the luggage had ruled out the presence of any explosives. At the end of all this, Vijay's lawyer said that as a result of the misdemeanour conviction and visa revocation Vijay would find it harder to get a US visa in the future!!!

It is also not evident that the Indian government has done much to help Vijay though there may be events in the background that are not brought to the public's attention. So where all can the blame be apportioned? Beyond a point, it just boils down to who and where you happen to be and how you are perceived.

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