Should Kalam have been frisked?

July 21, 2009

Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s frisking at the Delhi international airport has sparked uproar in the Indian media.

Former President Abdul KalamKalam is one of India’s most popular presidents, his tenure remembered both for his common touch and his earlier role in India’s rise as a nuclear power.

The government has filed a police report against Continental Airlines, whose staff frisked Kalam, violating a Bureau of Civil Aviation Security directive exempting specified VIPs and VVIPs from security checks.

Social networking sites were abuzz with angry Indians wondering how Americans would have reacted if, for example, former U.S. president Bill Clinton had been frisked.

For its part, the airline issued a statement saying both there were no exceptions to its security policy and it believed that Kalam had not been offended.

What do YOU think? Should Kalam have been frisked?


There are rules and there is common sense. It is also important that people and corporates understand the environment and culture they operate in.

This is a crass and insensitive act by Continental. They deserve to be censured and punished.

And it only further projects US and Corporate America as arrogant superpower who tread on all the rest. But knowing Americans this is not true.. so it is in fact Americans who should look at such incidents and call the involved to account

Posted by Raghu Bhaskaran | Report as abusive

A small question “What would have happened when if this thing would have happened to a ex-american president?”

Posted by Ashish | Report as abusive

Of course everyone should be frisked as a matter or routine security. I don’t care if God showed up at IGIA or any other airport, or port in India. Everyone gets frisked. No exceptions!

Posted by H Zadoo | Report as abusive

This is a lot of noise about nothing.


If there is a Bureau of Civil Aviation Security directive and that has been violated, then, sorry, that is not acceptable. I think Continental must be made to answer, and their defence that there are no exceptions to frisking, does not sell. This happened in India in violation of a directive, and with one of our most respected statesmen. I am horrified at the insensitivity and ignorance of the Airlines. I do not know what the law allows, but if it is possible, the airline must be banned from Indian Airports at least for a few months.

Posted by Krispad | Report as abusive

The staff of Continental Airlines have taken more care in frisking the VVIPs. I wonder if they dare to frisk their EX or Present VVIPs or Presidents. Had they dare to do the same with their Ex President, they might have been shown the boot by now. Staff of Continental Airlines should have strictly adhere to the directives of Bureau of Civil Aviation Security. Same thing can happen to them also at airport itself as they are not super humans. Continental Airlines should immediately tender their unconditional apology for this shameful act,

Posted by indiboy | Report as abusive

Should Bill Clinton have been frisked?

Posted by Peter | Report as abusive

will America tolerate if its ex president George Bush or Clinton been frisked anywhere in the world in the name of secuirty?

Posted by Ranjini | Report as abusive

This is one of the most outrageous things happened in the recent past. A former president of the country frisked for security reasons at an airport in the national capital. And the airlines say, it is a “normal procedure”! Whether it is a normal or abnormal procedure, they will soon come to know!

Posted by Paul Chacko | Report as abusive

This shows arrogance of America and its people. How dare they can do that? Continental Airline should unconditionally apologies for this incident or they should not be allowed to operate out of India.

Posted by sk | Report as abusive

Kalam himself has to be partly blamed for this fiasco, No American president or former presidents travels in non-American airlines, Kalam should have travelled in Air India in First place.

Posted by Raju Cherian | Report as abusive

Never!! It is about our national pride. Frisk Ms.Clinton and see what happens.

Posted by unni | Report as abusive

This is absolutely unpardonable on the part of Continental and also on the Govt. of India for events that lead to insulting former President of India.

Posted by Praveen | Report as abusive

No. This shouldn’t have happened to a person who held the top most office in INDIA. Anybody and everybody who operate business in India should know VVIPs and sounds like this frisking happened even after the MPs made the officers aware that he is a VVIP.
It is more insulting to see that the airlines issues a statement instead of Apology.

Posted by Vipin | Report as abusive

I do not think Continental airlines acted appropriately. This is common sense, he is a world renowned figure, a former president and highly respected. Was the staff uneducated, that they could not realize who he was?
They should not just apologize – they only understand money, so they should be fined also.

Posted by Viswanath | Report as abusive

Its an outrageous incident outright. No arguments here. A former president of India being a VVIP, there was an obvious callous regard for the laws of India and to top it, the airlines refused to apologize.

I want to know what the heck Praful is doing issuing meek statements like investigation. When facts are known, the action should be swift and severe. That should serve a notice to all who think they can do whatever in India. The blame lies with the Indian Govt too. They are spineless. They dont have any self-respect. They fear everybody on planet Earth – Tom, Dick and Harry and anybody else out there.

For once, show that India is no less than any other country in upholding the law of the land. Freeze the Airline operations if they dont apologize. That will send a message.

Hope the Congress party saves India’s self respect by not delaying anymore with meek statements and take ACTION! They dont have any respect for themselves anyway…so I am hoping for a miracle!


Bureau of Civil Aviation Security can revoke the licence it has given to Continental Airlines. If they can not honour an Indian Government directive, just ask them to windup and go.

It is as simple as that!!

Posted by Teby | Report as abusive

‘Kalam had not been offended’ is a lame excuse. The former president is a down to earth person, and the statement may be true.

Simply speaking, the airlines ignored the law of the country, or overruled the law of india by their own procedure.

President Abdul Kalam is an immensely popular figure because is a learned and kind-hearted man, a scientist, and a visionary.

The airlines not only played with law in the name of standard procedure, they have played, inadvertantly though, with emotion of a huge population.

Apologise or pack up your bags continental.

Posted by quark | Report as abusive

Thats the difference between Indians and Americans. The patriotic Americans don’t trust Indians (after all all Indians are slaves and potential terrorists). The unpatriotic Indians always behave like slaves of Americans. Serves the Indians right..

Posted by suresh kinnar | Report as abusive

If the airline was notified in an official manner in advance, about No Frisking Protocol of VVIP, they cannot violate the protocol. If Continental cannot follow the law of the land, they better wind up their shop. Alternatively they should not accept such bookings.

Posted by Ashok Bhagat | Report as abusive

This is a shameful and clear violation of DIPLOMATIC PROTOCOL. This is not about seeking favoritism for an Indian politician. Shame on Continental for disrespecting an Indian President in his own country! To add further insult the airline has not demonstrated the decency to come out and apologize for violation of diplomatic protocol. Shame on Continental Airlines. India should withdraw landing rights for Continental. Hit back where it hurts most!
John, New York

Posted by John | Report as abusive

It was a violation. Dr. Abdul Kalam is a highly respectable well known (known all over the world including USA) head-of-state of India, and the airline, no matter which airline it is, should have respected this fact and should not have frisked this great person. He is one of the few gems which India has produced and he can be considered as one of the few gems which every human being should learn to respect. Wise people always respect others’ dignity and wisdom lies there. The response from Indian government is appropriate and well deserved in this case. A message to beloved Ex-President of India: Mr. President, His Highness Abdul Kalam, you are beloved to millions of people, not only in India but around the world and have won hearts of these people who have immense affection and respect for you.

Posted by RVMUN | Report as abusive

If Dr Kalam cannot be trusted then even Obama cannot be trusted. The US folks are increasingly becoming paranoid. The day is not far off, when they will stop trusting themselves.

Posted by sunny | Report as abusive

If protocol exempts former Presidents from being frisked, what is meted out to Mr Kalam seems to be unfair. Unless protocol terms are known, it is not that easy to comment.

Posted by Mukhil | Report as abusive

I severally condemned their action and whatever their explanation by Airlines. This is an absolute nuances and clear violation of VVIP and protocol and it can’t be justified by word security procedures. Our authorities must ask Airline’s explanation and they must offer an unconditional apologize to our EX president. Otherwise it will be shameful for the entire nation.


Posted by STANLY | Report as abusive

Of course NOT! It’s not just a breach of protocol, but also a slap in the face of us all. An ex-President, a Bharat Ratna and this is how he is treated? On his own soil? By some stupid american airline? This is unpardonable. Of course President Kalam being a gentlemanwill not make a fuss, but i hope the other ‘VIPs’ in the parliament do something about it.


No, Not at all

Posted by RANJEET SINGH RANA | Report as abusive

No, not all, it insult of India

Posted by RANJEET SINGH RANA | Report as abusive

it should have been avoided….but still things like this will repeat again and again

Posted by sudeep | Report as abusive

i personally feel they shouldnt have done it.Kalam is one of the greats who have taken India into the history of world. they shldnt have treated him like that not only that they should have some sense while doin so to such a great man. they could have done this to any M.P or some political person but doin to this to that great man is totally ridiculous and can be given no excuses. Are they ready to do the same to any political leader?? because Mr kalam is a gentleman and accepts everything they behaved on their own. They should get the punishment for their recklessness .

Posted by sri harsha | Report as abusive

its a shame

Posted by goutham | Report as abusive

This incident shouldn’t have happened but Dr. Kalam has no problem with it, so why the buzz ?!?!

If such rules apply to everyone internationally – its OK but if not -action should be taken aganst Continental Airlines.

Posted by Santosh | Report as abusive

Can the airline dare doing the same with president of U.S.? I think this happened because we happen to be a soft nation and probably because people like the one working with Continental Airlines think themselves of higher in race & status than others specially Indians.

Why can’t government bar the Continental in India!!! We will see then how they behave when their revenues got hit…

And who dared giving such statement from airlines side!~!!?? Put him / her behind the bars.

I would urge Indians across the world not to use this idiot airline…

To hell with you… Continental Airlines

Posted by Nimesh | Report as abusive

I think this a pre-orchestrated effort by the airline to denounce the nation’s name and probably a cheap marketing tactics by the desperate airline. Besides being poor in customer service they have proved that they do not even qualify to be considered to operate services to India.


Surely not.Certain VVIPs are clearly exempted from frisking.Frisking is strongly condemned

Posted by Pranav | Report as abusive

One rule should apply to all,and even if one has decided that that rule is going to be unequal treatments of unequals (more equals! less equals! etcetera etcetera), then that rule should be enforced.
All airlines should follow them, Kalam should not have been frisked.
Apart from that it is also a bit like making a mountain of a mole hill (especially blogs like this one: Frisking of Kalam is an insult to nation  /randomaccess/entry/frisking-of-kalam-i s-an).
We should be more thick-skinned, and let the proper official channels settle this.

Posted by vipul | Report as abusive

If they (airlines ) are not ready to respect the law of land, then we should penalize them.

Posted by Senthil Kumar | Report as abusive

This just shows the paranoia that has gripped the entire western world since 9/11. In some ways the ignorance of the airlines is also to be noted. Usually when a dignitary travels, he has his personal security officers accompanying him. Assuming the airlines didn’t know who Kalam was, and that there was never a more unlikely person to slip a gun into the plane, why didn’t those accompanying the former President follow protocol?
As such, it will be unfair to come down hard on the airline officials who were just doing their job. But it’s unfortunate that a person of Kalam’s stature had to undergo the humiliation.

Posted by Toxictulip | Report as abusive

how can an airline get away with just an apology , this is unacceptable . Can our airline do the same for an ex US president and then apologize later.

this happened in the past with our ex defence minister as well,why do we have to be a soft nation.


the question is not about should Kalam have been frisked. There is a bigger question about a deep rooted Indian psychological malaise that is for the common man. Elites(Political/Sports/Movies/Business) are above the law.

Why is the traffic police man scared to penalize a neta. why is there no queue for elites of society. Why should they get preferential treatment.

Once we give in to this mentality, it start working at various levels in society and starts to degrade the society as a whole.

Yes..Dr. Kalam should have been frisked. He is not the serving president. He had been a great president no doubt about that. But he is just like other normal citizens and there should be no preferential treatment.

Someone commented that this would never happen to a US president. Well ex US presidents/serving senators have been given penalized for breaking traffic rules. Imagine that happening in India.

Posted by sanju | Report as abusive

Just relax all of you, won’t you? The airlines people are just doing their duty. Forget for a moment it’s kalam. if they hadn’t taken the necessary security steps for each and every individual, each and every time, it wouldve put a lot more lives at risk.

Posted by sepiamutiny | Report as abusive

bravo matthias for writing about an issue all of us feel need to be highlighted. Kalam is one of our most respected Presidents and frisking him was not a smart thing to do. The airline clearly didnt take a close look at the passengers list and if they did, missed the name of a former president. Which is again very telling about the kind of customer service they offer. But on the whole I feel its mostly the Indian government’s fault for scaling down security for a former president.

Posted by manmohan tiwari | Report as abusive

Were they trying to find a missile inside Abdul Kalam’s pocket? This should never have happened. The government should ban Continental from operating in India.

Posted by Bijesh | Report as abusive

the airline hasn’t certainly followed the protocol that former presidents should not go through security check. it is clear. while bush or obama will not go thru this because they fly charter airlines after they retire. they don’t fly commercial jet. it was great on kalam to go thru this check humbly and great on himm for flying a commercial airliner without any fuss.

certainly continental should be penalised for not following the protocol. if they ignored the local law or don’t want to observe it then they have no business in the country. TSA is american department, it has not jurisdiction in India. Continental Airline PR Aparna cannot decry the notion that they were enforcing TSA laws. for crying out loud, this is india not america and TSA is not a department in india that can override Government rules.

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

I’m disappointed at the lack of critical thinking amongst the predominantly Indian responses. Nearly all airlines overseas use local talent. That means Continental has INDIAN employees at the airport where the former President was frisked!!! Just as you would see Continental have Japanese employees in Tokyo. Am I safe to assume the Continental INDIAN employees can’t recognize their former President? Perhaps there should be more Indian “outrage” at poverty in the nation or the very suspicious Mumbai attack which smells of CIA/Mossad.

Posted by Benito M | Report as abusive

Where the hell do you draw a line. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Kalam, but can’t say that for the bunch of other lunatics who are considered “VIP”, “VVIP” in india. Some of them have got away with murder, steeling, etc. I’m sorry, but on this I’d side with the airlines, and if you ask Dr. Kalam he would probably say the same.

Posted by rkt | Report as abusive

@sanju. This is not about our mentality or what happens in road every other day. firstly Kalam is not everyday neta you talk about, he has good reputation, for heavens sake he was a reputed missile scientist and former President of India. Few people like him can change entire fate of the nation.

He lead project to develop Strategic Ballistic missiles, missiles which decide the very fate of nation in a war, lives of you, me, our enemies, everyone in the nation.

No, Airline should NOT HAVE frisked Kalam or any VIP mentioned in the list issued by GOI. Nobody is above the law neither Abdual Kalam or Continental Airline. Airlines broke the law by frisking and deserve to be punished.

Kalam didn’t make hue cry, because he is not typical neta you hear about. Its shame on us and Govt if we ignored this incident.

Serving or not, Kalam should not frisked according to Indian Laws. Continental did that in India, not in US. Follow Indian Laws when you are in India.

Not just US President, it wouldn’t happen to any former VIPs in US.

Posted by Ajay | Report as abusive

Obviously the errors are related to personel and not an airline. It is not the head of a regional facilities decision to pull aside any indivual, rather than to implement protocol for searches and safety. All Americans do not believe India to be a place for terrorists, but they do recognize the ability for any aircraft to become a deadly instrument, wether it be on American or foreign soil. Indians should respect the fact that these policies are implemented for the safety of the world, not to spit its face.

For anyone to call this an outrage or demand an apology should first question the heritage of the indivual responsible for the decision to search him in the first place, NOT the airline. Your close minded comments signal to your own ignorance.

Perhaps you should be thanking the airlines for following protocol. Any individual could claim to be an official from any nation, and without proof, who is to believe it? Moroever than that, who from their own culture would not recognize this indivual, that person should be ashamed of themselves, and anyone who has attacked any other than the perpitrator should as well.

We Americans constantly chastise and punish our own officials when they break the law, and if they were not currently serving, and an indivual pulled them aside unknowing of their stature would, they would likely perform the same routines to our own officials.

Perhaps you all should try looking at the situation with your intuition rather than your prejudices, prejudices against your own citizens at that. No one deserves to be punished for doing their job, in my opinion, they deserve praise, for ensuring the safety of the world isn’t compromised by one nations absurd policies on exemptions.

None of this is to disrepsect the indivual of subject, rather than to deface your cries of ignorance. Why don’t you go ask Abdul Kalam how he feels of the situation.

Posted by Atma Manu | Report as abusive

JMM activists burn Hillary Clinton’s effigy. Hm?

Please realize the futility of your arguments if Kalam went to the airliner as a civilian, received his pass as a civilian, and went through the metal detector as a civilian. This wasn’t a diplomatic exchange. He didn’t prearrange to be treated differently, or attempt to verify himself of VVIP. Are you not considering the fact that maybe he didn’t care if he had to take off his shoes and walk through a metal detector to come to the US?

He wasn’t frisked. Frisking involves touching by the hands in completely inappropriate areas. He had a metal detector held away from his body. These are airport security guards we’re talking about – bored mindless, and concerned only with finding little bottles of liquid and metals. These people aren’t symbols of the American people, American diplomats, or American prejudices againsts Indians as a whole. If you really, really think they are, I don’t ever want to meet you. You seem ignorant.

I flew last week, and went through the same thing. I’m not an ex-prez, but the only way to guarantee ease of travel is to A)take a private flight, or b)if your a VVIP and want to be treated as one, arrange it. I’m convinced he didn’t mind at all! and it wasn’t about being polite. I say that because I also believe he is a great man.

That’s my piece.

Posted by Jackson | Report as abusive

I personally feel that, though this is an embarrassing act, still person like Kalam ji will not bother about such actions.

As he is an epitome of humbleness!

Posted by Swaroop | Report as abusive

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