Friday, April 13, 2012

United States regrets detaining Shah Rukh Khan at airport, 'mechanical apology' won't do, says India

The US customs and border protection authorities have expressed "profound" apologies for detaining actor Shah Rukh Khan at a New York airport for over two hours yesterday. 

Khan had been invited by the Yale University to deliver a lecture to students. 

The Indian foreign ministry is also reported to be upset over the incident and will take it up with US authorities. 

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna also felt it has become a policy of 'detention and apology' for the US which ''cannot continue''. 

The Bollywood actor was detained at New York's White Plains airport for over two hours by immigration officials after arriving from India in a private plane with Nita Ambani. 

While Nita and the rest of their group were cleared immediately, Khan was stopped and was given immigration clearance after two hours, sources said. 

46-year-old Khan was to address a press conference at 2 pm and deliver a lecture at 4 pm at the Yale University. 

However, he arrived for the press meet three hours behind schedule and his hour-long lecture started at about 6 pm. 

Reacting strongly to the detention, India today asserted that a "mechanical apology" from the US in such cases was not "adequate" and that it would take up the issue with the highest authorities in that country.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has asked Ambassador Nirupama Rao to take up the matter with the highest US authorities. 

"Repeated problem for same person followed by clearance on account of Consulate intervention and mechanical apology is not adequate," Ministry of External Affairs sources said. 

According to the sources, the letter by the US immigration department said SRK's name was "flagged" in the system and the airport staff needed approval of "senior" authorities to clear him. 

During his lecture, Khan told the students: "Whenever I start feeling too arrogant about myself I always take a trip to America. The immigration guys kicked the star out of stardom." 

He added that he always has his "small victories" even in such circumstances. 

"They (immigration officials) always ask me how tall I am and I always lie and say 5 feet 10 inches. Next time I am going to get more adventurous. (If they ask me) What colour are you, I am going to say white," Khan said. 

Earlier, when informed about Khan being held up at the White Plains airport in New York, Yale University officials "contacted and spoke with officials at the Department of Homeland Security and Department of US Immigration and Customs in Washington," the sources said. 

They added that Khan was "very very upset" at the episode and it "took time for the university officials to make him comfortable again". 

The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah while reacting to Shah Rukh's detention tweeted, “Honestly what's the big deal?? This airport detention thing happens all the time & to all sorts of people. Get over it.” 

The actor, who is scheduled to fly back to India later tonight, visited Connecticut-based Yale University, which had conferred him with its prestigious Chubb fellowship. 

As part of the fellowship, Khan addressed a gathering of hundreds of Yale students, parents, faculty and other members of the Indian-American community at the Yale campus. 

Before beginning his address to the students, Khan, dressed in a chic black suit, said it had been a long flight and thanked Ambani for getting him to the US. 

Ambani's daughter Isha is a student at Yale and is also president of the South Asian Society at the university.
Khan went on to say that he was "detained at the airport as always". 

"It was nice, as it always happens," Khan said with a slight smile even as students in the audience gave out a large sigh and booed the US authorities when they heard Khan telling them he was detained. 

While Khan told students he was stopped for about an hour and a half, sources said he was at the airport for over two hours. 

He told them this is not the first time he has been stopped at an airport in the country and this has happened to him "three to four times before". 

The most recent one was in 2009 when Khan was detained at the Newark Airport in New Jersey.
Khan had said he was detained because of his last name. 

The private plane carrying Khan, Ambani and their group landed at White Plains Airport, which is about 53 kilometres from Manhattan, at around 12:45 in the afternoon. 

Sources said while everyone with him cleared immigration soon, he was stopped and had to wait till 2:30 pm before he was let go. 

The sources said since the White Plains airport is a small facility, everyone who was with Khan waited together for him to get his clearance. 

The detention had caused "tense" moments for Khan and his team, who sources said were "struggling" to get the situation sorted. 

Khan did not mention anything about the detention during the nearly 20 minute press conference.
Members of his team as well as the university officials too did not talk about the reasons for his detention.
When contacted, Khan said through a member of his team that he would not make any comments on the episode. 

The person said Khan stressed that the American immigration officials "kick the star out of stardom," adding that the episode had left a bad taste. 

Meanwhile, from talking about his son's single letter replies to his long messages and exhorting hundreds of Yale students to neither be afraid of failure nor to defying conventions, Khan charmed the university as he delivered his lecture. 

"Do not be afraid to defy conventions Do not be afraid to destroy systems that kill art and your souls. Do not be afraid to be hungry. Do not be afraid to walk alone if necessary," Khan told a packed theatre during his 30 minute lecture. 

The actor said while he has everything he could have aspired for - success, fame, wealth and "three playstations" - none of these have any consequence to his happiness other than the "love of my children". 

Khan was introduced to the students by Ambani's daughter Isha, who is a student at the prestigious American institution. 

The young Ambani, who is president of the South Asian Society at Yale, spoke of how she had asked Khan to visit Yale when she had joined the university about four years ago. 

Her mother, Nita Ambani, who had accompanied Khan on the trip to Yale, was also present in the audience.

Sitting in the front row, Ambani was visibly proud when her daughter came on stage to introduce Khan.

Ambani said she was "absolutely proud" of her daughter, adding it was "wonderful" to be present with Khan on the occasion. 

"It is wonderful to be here. Shahrukh has been a dear friend for many years. It is wonderful to be here especially since it is my daughter's university," Ambani said after the lecture. 

The university said about 1700 people, including students, parents and faculty, attended Khan's lecture.
Before the lecture, a long video montage of his movies, songs and famous dialogues was also played.
Khan had flown from Mumbai with Nita Ambani in a private plane to be at Yale just for the day. He flew back to India late last night. 

Yale students had waited for hours in the cold weather and rain to see Khan and hear his lecture. 

Fans had travelled from as far as Alabama and California to attend the lecture. Some of the people were carrying his posters, while others recited dialogues of his movies as they waited in line to be seated in the theatre where Khan was to speak. 

As part of the Yale Chubb fellowship, Khan also attended a reception and dinner at the Timothy Dwight College, the Yale residential College that administers the Chubb fellowship. 

Over 120 Yale students attended the dinner where a small group also gave a dance performance.
The actor too did not disappoint his fans and after giving his 30-minute lecture and answering a few questions, he danced to 'Chamak Challo' and recited a dialogue from his movie 'Don'.

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