ByÂ Mr. Nupur Das:
I saw theÂ BollywoodÂ movie ‘My name is Khan’ a few years ago, often came across reports of known personalities detained longer for frisking in airports just because they are suspected for his/her (sur)name or places they belong to. But this time it was my turn, and in my own country where I was asked to get a foreigners entry pass to enter into a monument Â just because I belonged to a place which was a disturbed area.
For a night stay, me along with two of my friends decided to visit Agra after appearing at our mid semester exams. We started our journey on a very happy mood and on 17th of march in the morning, when we had decided to visit the Taj mahal which is obvious to visit once you are in Agra, we were greeted with some unwanted and unjustifiedÂ behaviorÂ by the security personals and the ticket checkers at the gate of the Taj mahal.
One of my friends was from Afghanistan and is pursuing his masters together with us in Delhi University, hence, we thought he would be allowed to enter the premises of the monument with the ticket meant for local public. On checking at the gate, we were kindly informed by the security guards that he being a foreign national had to get the pass meant for foreign tourists which cost around 500 rupees. On knowing the amount of the ticket, we were surprised and feared a shortage of our limited pocket money; hence, I returned to the guard to ask if there was any kind of concession for him, being the student of an Indian University. On hearing such question (which I don’t think was that bad a question), the guard asked me for an id proof and on providing them with my college I card and library card which I had used several times as an id proof for entry in various events earlier, I was denied permission to enter the monument premises.
I was even more surprised as the guard and the ticket checker were willing to allow me to enter inside the monument if I bought the pass which was meant for the foreign tourists, when I could not provide with another Id proof apart from the university library proof and college id card. I, being a more responsible citizen than the guard, explained to him that I don’t see the need to buy a ticket which was meant only for the foreign tourists. I went to the extent of explaining the guard that I was from Guwahati and briefly described him the geographical location of my hometown as it was nothing new for me when some people asked me in which country my city was. May be the ticket checker and the guard were not convinced with my explanation, they debarred me and my other friends from entering the Taj Mahal on the condition that I provide another Id proof having govt. of India tag or get a foreigners pass. While my friend from Afghanistan was allowed to enter after getting a pass meant for foreigners, my other friend who (wasn’tÂ from Afghanistan) tried to further explain the matter to the guards was physically pushed back as if we were there for rioting and the only reply we got from them was that they doubted me and refused to elaborate on it. Dismayed, we strolled on to the other side for entry to the Taj Mahal; giving a last try to get a glimpse and clarify that we have faced similar confusion but were allowed to enter once we provided the necessary details.
Was this a lack of knowledge of the security guards who host hundreds of tourists if not less than that or is it the common stereotype that generally develops towards people belonging to disturbed areas who is always seen as a miscreant? I, being an enlightened individual, simply moved on as I knew a person who is not well aware on this issues must not be blamed individually, rather make them aware on it and the management can take a appreciable initiative for it.