American flag -  sflovestory Flickr CC -feature

I Get a Taste of American Power on the Streets of Delhi

What I narrate in this article is a personal story. Something that happened to me.

On a Saturday afternoon, on September 15, 2012, I happened to be walking past the American Center at Connaught Place in Central Delhi with several of my friends. For those who don’t know, the American Center is sort of a cultural and education center run by the American embassy in Delhi.

Image Credit: “sflovestory,” Flickr.com (Creative Commons) (Location unknown)

While we were walking past the American Center, I notice the American flag on top of the American Center at half-mast. It was obvious to me that it was because of the American ambassador who died in Libya the other day. Since it’s not everyday you would see the American flag at half-mast, I felt it was a scene worthy to be captured on camera.

I was out with my friends celebrating, so I happened to have a camera with me.  I take out my camera and take a snapshot of the flag. The moment I take the picture of the flag, all hell breaks loose. This private security guard working at the gate calls at me like I had just committed a crime. When I look at him he tells me that I am not allowed to take pictures here. I say all right, thinking that was the end of it. But then he orders me to come off the street and inside onto the premises of the compound. He tells me to wait and then radios another security guard. My friends follow me to see what was going on. He orders them to go outside the compound. They do as he tells them, but stand in front of the gate and look on worried. He orders them to walk away from the compound and not stand in front of the building. They hesitantly walk away from the building but remain close.

A few seconds later, another guard walks out of the building. He tells me to show the picture I took. I show him the picture of the flag. He tells me I’ll have to walk inside with him.  He then takes me inside the building, and hands me over to another guard working at the check-in counter. This guard at the counter asks for an identity card; I show him my PAN card which was the only identity card I had on me at the time. He writes my name down on a piece of paper. He then asks me to tell him my father’s name, my address, my date of birth and phone number.  He then asks to see the picture. I show it to him. He orders me to delete it. I delete it. He checks to make sure I did. He then interrogates me; he asks me where I was coming from, and where I was going. I tell him everything he wanted to know.

He then radios his superior (I’m assuming his superior), tells him the entire story. He then tells me to wait; I assumed for his superior to walk out.  We wait for him to arrive.

After a couple of minutes, a security guard walks out from the inside of the building to the front counter with a camera.  He asks the other guard if the picture was deleted. The guard at the counter says yes. The security guard who had just walked out with the camera asks for my identity card. I show it to him. He looks at it and tells me he will have to take a picture of me. First he places my identity card on the counter and takes a picture of it. He then tells me to stand against a wall so he could take a mug shot of me.  The camera flashes a couple of times. He gestures and tells me to leave. Feeling relieved, I walk out and join my friends waiting on the outside.

Let me remind you, the picture I took was taken on the street and not inside the American Center. The people interrogating me and holding me against my will inside the building were private security guards working for the American Center, which is run by the American embassy. At no point were the Delhi police called, who by the way, were sitting in a car parked right outside the Center for  the Center’s security.

Apparently the Americans are running a parallel government in Delhi. They can simply pull Indian citizens off the street, hold them against their will, and run their own investigations. They did not feel the need to involve the local authorities. The whole thing felt like it was done on a routine.

After this incident I believe I have attained a better understanding of the phrase, America is the sole super power. It means that the American jurisdiction doesn’t end at her borders, but covers the entire world.

About Khalid Jaleel

Khalid Jaleel is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science. He can be reached via email at: khalidj [at] jamiajournal.com

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12 comments

  1. Were the private security guards locals?

  2. If by locals you mean did they look Indian? Then yes, they all looked Indian.

  3. Well judging by this story it looks like it is back to the days of colonialism.The US certainly has power over the world and controls countries either through the power of blackmail or violence.Puppet governments are usually formed as in the case of some middle-east countries.Unfortunately India has now fallen prey to this indirectly owing to its economic dependency and also because of its dislike and suspicions of Muslims in general. This is manifested by their not so old friendship with Israel that controls the US politics. Probably India and Israel follow the policy of ” My enemy’s enemy is my friend”. Sept 11 wreaked havoc between Muslim-West relations. It is being investigated and is strongly believed to be a false flag operation aided and abetted jointly by the CIA and Mossad. The ‘Toronto Hearings’ a huge conference held in Toronto,Canada only this year proved so. Also a group of 60 architects and Engineers along with scientists have proved that Sept 11 is false flag operation. web site http://WWW.AE9/11.org says it all. The recent and now the current events to de-humanize Islam are proving that the US is preparing to once and for all to remove the power from the Middle East countries in the name of ‘fighting terrorists,’ ‘spreading democracy’ or merely ‘protecting her citizens. They recently robbed Libya along with the NATO lying about Gaddafi because he was getting too powerful in Africa.
    But having said all this we have to note with regret that how India that once was the champion of freedom and standing up against injustice, has today become become a loyal lackey of the West even if its wrong. This policy actually had started with the rule of Narashima Rao followed by the BJP government’s policy against Muslims.
    Indian media does not condemn or highlight any wrong or injustice committed by the US anywhere across the world. To give examples the Iraq war where one million citizens of Iraq were slaughtered most horrendously and needlessly by the most powerful weapons in the world were not given much coverage. The invasion which they called ‘war’ was just a pretext to invade the country and loot its resources. Saddam did not attack any ciuntry in the West ,nor did he possess any WMDs. Yet India still worships the US.Sept 11 may have seen 3000 deaths.But the bombing of Afghanistan that ensued immediately saw the death of 15000 innocent civilians mostly women and children. Yet India that says it is a great friend of Afghanistan does not speak one word against the occupation and terrorism of the US in Afghanistan.
    So it is no surprise that this US cultural center what you talk about could be a spy center to spy on Indians. To serve this purpose Indians are gladly cooperating with the US as they naturally paid pretty well one assumes. Indians of today have lost the teachings of the great Mahatma and dignity of our great freedom fighters. The lesson will dawn on them one day for sure.

  4. Not only at USA Embassy but around all Embassy you are not allowed to take pictures…..

  5. when you know that the guard who ordered you to go inside were not in the land of Indian jurisdiction then why did u get inside… Indian cultural center in DC has the full authority of doing the same things with an american, like the way they did to you. But only if one enters the premises, which you did.

    State embassy, consulate, cultural center’s and various such places of country in a foreign land is their own property. Host nation has no power to deal or even enter the premises in any situation what so ever.

    so even if same things happen with you in Congolese embassy, the police outside would not have done anything because what happened with you was Inside the premises, which is not in jurisdiction of INDIA.

    more over what happened with you was bad, this should not have been done but they may had a high alert due to present crisis, which led to all this.

  6. Syed Ashfaque Hossain

    I have been a visitor to the American Centre Kolkata for over 30 years now, enjoying reading, Live Jazz Band, Internet facilities and very cordial staff. I have always recieved a warm welcome from all the guards, with a lot of respect. Ofcourse , photos are not allowed to be taken of many sites. S.A. Hossain , Kolkata ..16.9.2012

  7. You are very right. i have read about these things that use to happen in the poor countries were America have embassy, but i am shocked to know that in India, they treat indian like cat and dog as they treat the other countries citizens. It gives a broad indication that need not to be mentioned.

  8. If u get job in America, u will run bare foot. It is our duel thinking !!

  9. Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

  10. @Sulaiman: Yes they are locals…

  11. Yes your story is not surprising to me. As I know from a friend of mine who worked for sometime in American Embassy school, that once you enter the school premises you are guided by American law. Can you imagine America’s land in Delhi?

  12. Manoj Pandey from calcutta writing: —- american center in Calcutta is polite because they know they can’t get away with this in calcutta. [Or they arent sure they can – the left front in its early days did that much, at least]

    I dont have anything against individual consulate/embassy people; just like I wouldnt have anything against ordinary Brits in (directly) imperial times, even Brits in imperial posts as long as they werent known to be specially bad — George Orwell was an Indian Imperial Police Officer! (in Burma, but then Burma was part of India – 1890-1935 or so).

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