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.
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.