Shahrukh Khan's Detention A Second Time At US Airport:
Some Raw Truths and Latent Lessons
By Buddhi Kota Subbarao. Ph.D.
21 April, 2012
Discrimination and monumental injustice mounted on ordinary people by an overbearing government on the basis of colour, race and religion remains unnoticed till a celebrity is made to taste a bit of it.
United States of America prides itself in the rule of law, democracy and freedom of speech. Yet, gross abuse of these coveted principles by the United States on the basis of colour, race and religion does not get noticed if the victims are resource less ill placed persons.
Only when a well-known Bollywood actor Shahrukh Khan is made to feel the pain of arbitrary ways of the American officials, it could cause uproar from the Indian External Affairs Ministry and Indian people. US Government apologised but pronounced that there is no pattern in Khan's matter and no racial profile to it.
But the fact of the matter is, there is a pattern in Khan's matter and the pattern is built into the system placed in place after the 9/11 event in the United States. The system throws up the names on computer screen at the port of entry, requiring the Immigration Inspectors to do their job. The names that come up on computer screen are in accordance with a pattern which is software input based on colour, race and religion. Shahrukh Khan's name popped up on the computer screen as per this inbuilt pattern. The fact that Shahrukh Khan's name popped up on computer screen first time in 2009 and a second time in April 2012 shows clearly that there is an inbuilt pattern in the system.
Notwithstanding the denial by the United States Government, the race and religious profile in Khan's matter is also clear. Because his “name is Khan” and he is an Asian and a Muslim though he “is not a terrorist”, his name popped up on the computer screen at the port of entry for a second time in three years.
It appears, Shahrukh Khan was detained for about ‘two hours' by the US Immigration authorities at a New York Airport on April 12, 2012, when he arrived from India in a private plane with Nita Ambani, to address students at Yale University.
Ordinary People Helpless Victims of Discrimination in USA.
The uproar from the Indian Government and Indian People and the apology and explanation from the Government of the United States in the matter of celebrity Khan cannot obliterate the gross discrimination being faced in the United States by the ordinary people on the basis of colour, race and religion. We are discussing below a concrete instance of gross discrimination and monumental miscarriage of justice in the matter of an Indian Graduate Student of Purdue University, Vikram Buddhi and the matter has its roots in Iraq war.
Vikram Buddhi was a National Science Talent Scholar in India. He was awarded Silver Medal by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay for standing first in M.Sc. (Mathematics). He was pursuing his Ph.D in mathematics at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA, where he was awarded twice, Best Teaching Award, by the Mathematics Department of Purdue University.
The backdrop was Iraq war. Launched in March 2003 and led by the United States, Iraq war was agitating the minds of people worldwide as a war without cause. Thousands of innocent Iraqi people were killed and thousands were made refugees in other countries.
The world came to know about the horrible sexual abuses in Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq committed by the Armed Forces Personnel of the United States. The "Taguba Report" on Treatment of Abu Ghraib Prisoners in Iraq (Feb. 26, 2004), available at,
http://www.npr.org/iraq/2004/prison_abuse_report.pdf rendered by Major General Antonio M.Taguba of US Army concluded and confirmed,
"Several US Army Soldiers have committed egregious acts and grave breaches of International law at Abu Ghraib/BCCF and Camp Bucca, Iraq. Furthermore, key senior leaders in both the 800th MP Brigade and the 205th MI Brigade failed to comply with established regulations, policies, and command directives in preventing detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib (BCCF) and at Camp Bucca during the period August 2003 to February 2004."
The disclosure of the lurid details of the horrible sexual abuses at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq made waves throughout the world and certainly in all Muslim countries.
In such a background, some Internet Messages appeared on Yahoo space in December 2005 and first week of January 2006, calling upon the people of Iraq to retaliate the perceived unjust Iraq war and to kill the then US President G W Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others. The Internet Messages travelled through the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. Purdue University has a history of its computer network being hacked several times.
Bush administration was looking for a scapegoat to forewarn all the young people in the Universities from indulging in criticism of Iraq war and from posting any such Internet Messages.
Since it is well known, Purdue University has a history of its computer network being hacked several times, in all probability; the Internet Messages got posted to Yahoo space from outside through hacking into Purdue computer network.
The Internet Messages in fact travelled through the IP address allocated to another Graduate Student by name Anthony Cymasko an American citizen. But, for some unknown reason, an Indian Graduate Student of Purdue University Vikram Buddhi was made the scapegoat. Perhaps, the US Government knew way back in 2006 that the Indian Government would only take up the cause of celebrities like Shahrukh Khan and not that of ordinary people of India like Vikram Buddhi.
What happened to Vikram Buddhi could happen to any Indian in the United States or for that matter to any resident alien in the United States. It is in public interest, in both the United States and India, to analyse the method and the manner in which Vikram Buddhi was indicted, made to face jury trial, convicted, sentenced and denied opportunity to file in time his appeal before appropriate US Appeals Court against his conviction and sentence. Here are some salient points:
- In the middle of January 2006, US Secret Service investigated and interrogated members of faculty and students of Purdue University regarding the origin of those Internet Messages and rendered a formal Report on February 3, 2006 clearing everybody. With regard to Vikram Buddhi there is a specific mention in the Report “ Vikram Buddhi is not a threat to US President or any Secret Service Protectees .” (This Report is now in Trial Court Record at Exhibit B1.).
- There were no more such Internet Messages after the US Secret Service cleared everybody at Purdue with its report rendered on February 3, 2006 and there were no other new developments. Yet, the Bush Administration arrested Vikram Buddhi on April 14, 2006 and federal prosecution was launched against him. United States v. Vikram Buddhi, Case No: 06 CR 63, before the US District Court, Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. If at all a new development is to be seen after February 3, 2006, it is an article by Vikram Buddhi's father (writer of this article) that appeared on March 9, 2006 in countercurrents.org , titled “ Indo-US Nuclear Deal- Some Unexplored Angles”,( http://www.countercurrents.org/ind-subbarao090306.htm ) where it is argued with reasons that the Indo-US Nuclear Deal would benefit only the nuclear business corporations of the United States and would impoverish India in the long run. The main architects of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal are the then US President G W Bush and Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh who is still the Prime Minister.
· If the US Government had evidence to show Vikram Buddhi posted those Internet Messages on Yahoo space, then the Indictment (Charge) against him that was passed by the Grand Jury on April 19, 2006 upon being persuaded by the US Government should have mentioned his act of posting the Internet Messages as essential fact of the offences listed in the Indictment. But in the Indictment there is not even a whisper about the Internet Messages. Consequently, Vikram Buddhi does not know till today even after being incarcerated in different US jails for six years as to which act or omission of his constituted the offences he is charged with.
· If the Internet Messages are the offence elements to establishment the offences listed in the Indictment then the question for determination at the Jury Trial is, “ whether in the context of Iraq war, calling upon the people of Iraq to kill US President and others would constitute an offence under the law of the United States? ” With this question, the case becomes a speech threat case because the US Supreme Court recognised the Internet Messages as a form of speech and also ruled that when speech is made criminal it must be subjected to the commands of the First Amendment (freedom of speech). But the presiding US District Judge James T Moody refused to allow this question for the consideration of the Jury and also explicitly banished First Amendment Law from the Jury trial ( Trial Transcript Volume IV, June 28, 2007, pages 2 & 3). The Judge James T Moody commanded the Defence Attorney John Martin not to link the evidence on record with the First Amendment Law during the closing remarks of the Defence to the Jury ( Trial Transcript Volume IV, June 28, 2007, pages 4-6). Also, the Judge refused to instruct the Jury on the First Amendment Law, even after the Jury sent a Written Note to the Judge seeking clear and full instructions on the law governing the federal case against Vikram Buddhi ( Trial Transcript Volume IV, June 28, 2007, pages 91, 111, 115, 116).
· All of it is in violation of the law enunciated by the US Supreme Court in speech threat cases. Vikram Buddhi is subjected to an arbitrary and unfair jury trial depriving him of his legal rights and Constitutional rights under First Amendment (freedom of speech), Fifth Amendment (defendant entitled to due process and against double jeopardy), Sixth Amendment ( defendant in a criminal prosecution shall be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation) and Fourteenth Amendment of due process clause, which are guaranteed to every resident alien in the United States as per the repeated judgments of the Supreme Court of the United States. Thus there is grave miscarriage of justice and a gross discrimination.
· Gross discrimination against Indian Student Vikram Buddhi is apparent on the face of the record. Despite repeated written requests to the Indian External Affairs Minister Mr.S.M.Krishna, Indian Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh and Indian President Mrs.Pratibha Patil requesting them to write formally to the Government of the United States to follow the Rule of Law in the Federal Prosecution of Vikram Buddhi, no action was taken by any one of them to that effect. Vikram Buddhi is a law abiding ordinary Indian citizen. He has been left to languish in US prison for six years even though he committed no offence under the law of the United States. Indian Government turned a Nelson's eye to the illegal deprivation of life and liberty of Indian Graduate Student Vikram Buddhi in the United States for six years. But when the celebrity Shahrukh Khan was detained by US Authorities for two hours, Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna went on to proclaim vehemently that mechanical apology from US Government is not enough and went on to cause the Indian Embassy in Washington to take up the matter at different levels of the US Government. India protects the dignity of its celebrities and not of its ordinary citizens.
Krittika Biswas And Vikram Buddhi
When Vikram Buddhi a Graduate Student from India pursuing PhD studies at Purdue University in the United States has become victim of the arbitrary ways of the law enforcing agencies in the United States, for allegedly sending Internet Messages to Yahoo space calling upon the people of Iraq to retaliate the perceived unjust Iraq war, the Indian Government turned ‘Nelson's eye' to all the representations made on behalf of the Indian Graduate Student.
However, the Indian Government woke up to the reality when Krittika Biswas, an 18-year-old student of John Bowne High School and daughter of Debashish Biswas, vice consul (administration) at the Indian Consulate General in New York, was arrested, handcuffed and locked up for more than 24 hours on February 8, 2011, in an alleged case of obscene emails sent to two teachers in her school.
Look at the pace at which Indian Officials worked to get the release of a diplomat's daughter Krittika. "When she was apprehended, we worked through the night as we got the information in the night. We woke up the US officials in the night and got her released the next day," said the then India's Ambassador to US, Meera Shankar.
"It is a case which the embassy has taken up very seriously with the US government," Ambassador Meera Shankar told reporters at New Delhi, after a meeting with India's Home Minister P Chidambaram.
But neither India's Ambassador nor any Minister of the Indian Government showed any concern, when illegal federal prosecution was launched against Indian Graduate Student of Purdue University Vikram Buddhi, in April 2006 and he was jailed.
It shows, Indian Government pays attention only when a celebrity like Shahrukh Khan or kith and kin of Indian Embassy Staff in the United States has rough weather with US Officials and US Judicial System. This is a raw truth about contemporary India.
More details on this comparison are in the article “Sufferings Of Resident Aliens In The United States-Cases Of Krittika Biswas And Vikram Buddhi”, 04 June, 2011, Countercurrents.org
Roxana Saberi and Vikram Buddhi
American journalist Ms. Roxana Saberi was held in Iran and charged in April 2009 of spying for the United States. She was convicted and sentenced to eight years imprisonment by the Iranian Court.
US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton did not hesitate to denounce publicly the Iranian Court and the Iranian judicial system. However, both Obama and Hillary Clinton remained silent in the matter of Indian Graduate Student of Purdue University Vikram Buddhi even after they received detailed letters from Vikram's father describing the miscarriage of justice and gross discrimination mounted on Vikram Buddhi.
Whereas, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad upon receiving representations from parents of Roxana Saberi, responded, and himself wrote letter urging the Iranian judiciary to allow American-journalist Roxana Saberi a full and fair defence during the appeal process.
It is unfortunate, a trained lawyer US President Barack Obama did not deem it necessary to allow the Rule of Law to prevail in Vikram Buddhi's case. Consequently President Obama failed to measure up to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad who had ensured a full and fair defence during the appeal process for Roxana Saberi and helped Saberi to regain her life and liberty. This is indeed a raw truth about the contemporary United States.
Among the ways to measure the greatness of a country, the administration of justice ranks the highest and the military might the least.
More details on this comparison can be found in the article “ Roxana Saberi And Vikram Buddhi– Compel A Comparison”, 21 April,2009, Countercurrents.org
Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and Vikram Buddhi.
In April 2009 the US Attorney General Eric Holder reviewed and dropped the federal charges against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who was convicted in October 2008 and was awaiting sentencing at the end of April 2009.
Referring to Ted Stevens case, on Wednesday, April 1, 2009, as US Attorney General and as head of US Department of Justice, Eric Holder announced publicly, " After careful review, I have concluded that certain information should have been provided to the defense for use at trial ."
" In light of this conclusion, and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances of this particular case, I have determined that it is in the interest of justice to dismiss the indictment and not proceed with a new trial . "
Thus Ted Stevens was cleared by Eric Holder.
In a letter dated October 19, 2009 from the father of Vikram Buddhi, it was brought to the notice of US Attorney General Eric Holder that if there was a legal necessity to review and drop the federal charges against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens for withholding a bit of information from the Defence, there is a more compelling legal necessity to review and drop the federal case against Indian Graduate Student of Purdue University Vikram Buddhi, since the Federal District Judge withheld completely from the Jury the governing law in the federal case against Vikram Buddhi. Moreover, the Federal District Judge commanded the Defence Attorney not to link the evidence on record with the First Amendment Law during the closing remarks of the Defence to the Jury. Eric Holder did not review the matter of Vikram Buddhi.
In the United States, justice does not favour the ordinary people as easily as it favours the rich and the resourceful. Thus from the acts and omissions of Eric Holder, there emerges one more raw truth about the contemporary United States – justice in the United States favours only the rich and resourceful.
The Indian Student Vikram Buddhi who had entered the United States with a proper Visa and lived there for more than nine years as on April 2006 as law abiding citizen is entitled to all the Constitutional protections like any other citizen of the United States, but he was denied all of them.
US Supreme Court ruled clearly , “The Bill of Rights is a futile authority for the alien seeking admission for the first time to these shores. But once an alien lawfully enters and resides in this country he becomes invested with the rights guaranteed by the Constitution to all people within our borders. Such rights include those protected by the First and the Fifth Amendments and by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. None of these provisions acknowledges any distinction between citizens and resident aliens. They extend their inalienable privileges to all 'persons' and guard against any encroachment on those rights by federal or state authority." Bridges v. Wixon , 326 U.S. 135, 161 (concurring opinion).
Bagdasarian and Vikram Buddhi
Recently in July 2011 an American citizen Walter Edward Bagdasarian has been acquitted in appeal he filed before the US Appeals Court for the Ninth Circuit in California against his conviction and sentence for posting Internet Messages on Yahoo space threatening to kill Barack Obama during the Presidential election in 2008. Bagdasarian not only posted Internet Messages threatening to kill Obama but also had in his position a weapon and ammunition as well.
Ninth Circuit Court acquitted Bagdasarian with its finding that the Internet Messages sent by Bagdasarian threatening that he would kill Obama is protected speech under the First Amendment. Even though a weapon and ammunition were recovered from Bagdasarain, the Ninth Circuit Court ruled that there is no imminent danger and the threat is not a true threat, hence the acquittal. Initially found guilty, a divided panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the verdict on July 19, 2011.
Referring to the Internet postings of Bagdasarian, the judges of the US Appeals Court for the Ninth Circuit said the contents of those postings were 'particularly repugnant' but did not represent a genuine threat.
'When our law punishes words, we must examine the surrounding circumstances to discern the significance of those words' utterance, but must not distort or embellish their plain meaning so that the law may reach them,' said Chief Judge Alex Kozinski.
Bagdasarian's comments did not violate the law because 'predictions or exhortations to others to injure or kill the president' are not criminal, said the opinion written by Judge Stephen Reinhardt.
If a person like Bagdasarain who had posted Internet Messages containing his desire and determination to kill Obama and also had in his possession a weapon and ammunition could be acquitted in appeal recognising his Internet postings as free speech, then it would be a monumental miscarriage of justice and a gross discrimination to deny acquittal to a person who had allegedly posted Internet Messages calling upon the people of Iraq to retaliate the perceived unjust Iraq war and in ‘tit for tat' to kill US President G W Bush and others for the killing of thousands of innocent Iraqi women and children.
In Vikram Buddhi's matter, there is no charge (Indictment) mentioning that he posted Internet Messages on Yahoo space which had merely called upon the people of Iraq to retaliate the perceived unjust Iraq war. No weapon or ammunition was found in his person or at his residence.
Moreover, upon a thorough investigation and interrogation of faculty and students in the middle of January 2006 at Purdue University regarding the Internet Messages that travelled through the I P (Internet Protocol) addresses of Purdue University with a known history of its computer network being hacked several times, the US Secret Service made a formal Report on February 3, 2006 clearing everybody.
In respect of Vikram Buddhi, the US Secret Service even recorded a specific statement in the Report that Vikram Buddhi is not a threat US President or any Secret Service Protectees. There were no new developments after February 3, 2006 Report of US Secret Service. Yet, Vikram was arrested on April 14, 2006 and federal prosecution was launched. It shows the federal prosecution against Vikram Buddhi was for extraneous reasons.
Both cases are treated as speech threat cases under federal law:
US Appeals Court for the Ninth Circuit, California, granted the appeal and acquitted Walter Edward Bagdasarian (Appeal No. No. 09-50529, 9 th Cir.);
US Appeals Court for the Seventh Circuit, Chicago, rejected appeal of Vikram Buddhi and declined to interfere with the conviction and sentencing by the US District Court (Appeal Nos. 09-4012 & 09-4134, 7 th Cir., and Case No: 06 CR 63, US District Court, Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division).
Therefore, the federal case of Vikram Buddhi is required to be considered and decided by the Supreme Court of the United States because the US Appeals Courts for the Ninth Circuit and Seventh Circuit took contrary view on identical facts and law.
If the Supreme Court of the United States does not admit the Writ of Certiorari of Vikram Buddhi and examine his case de novo , it would bring the administration of justice in the United States into disrepute and it would make Vikram Buddhi's case a fit case to be taken to the International Court of Justice to consider the question, “ whether in the facts and circumstances of the Iraq war, calling upon the people of Iraq on moral grounds to kill the then US President G W Bush and others would constitute an offence under the law of any land on earth, let alone the land of the United States which prides itself in Rule of Law and Freedom of Speech? ”
Vikram Buddhi was convicted and sentenced to 57 months imprisonment in the United States for allegedly posting Internet Messages calling upon the people of Iraq to retaliate the perceived unjust Iraq war and kill US President G W Bush and others.
The way the federal cases were instituted and pursued in the United States against Bagdasarian an American Citizen and Vikram Buddhi an Indian Citizen and the way the US Appeals Court for Ninth Circuit granted acquittal to Bagdasarain and the way the US Appeals Court for the Seventh Circuit denied acquittal to Vikram Buddhi would reveal the contours of discrimination on racial grounds in the United States. If the US Supreme Court does not reverse the decision of the Seventh Circuit, the racial discrimination in the United States gets confirmed.
Representations To US Authorities
After Barack Obama took office on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, as the 44th President of the United States , a detailed representation was sent to President Obama on February 9, 2009, by Vikram Buddhi's father explaining how Rule of Law was thrown to the winds in instituting and pursuing vehemently a false, frivolous and vexatious federal prosecution against Indian Graduate Student of Purdue University Vikram Buddhi, during the tenure of the immediately preceding US President G W Bush.
In that representation, apart from other things, the father of Vikram Buddhi recalled from the inaugural address, the emphasis on ‘rule of law' placed by President Obam a, “ As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers -- Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience'[s] sake.”
The representation urged the US President to “ take appropriate action to preserve and promote respect for the administration of justice in the United States” and afford the Indian Graduate Student Vikram Buddhi full opportunity to defend himself “so that his freedom and dignity are restored to him and he will be able to continue on the path of his proven bright career.”
President Obama did not do anything to dismount the miscarriage of justice mounted on Vikram Buddhi. Even the subsequent representations were also ignored by President Obama.
Representations were made to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to allow the rule of law to prevail in Vikram Buddhi's matter. But it was all in vain.
Detailed representations were made to three successive US Attorney Generals, Alfred Gonzales, Michael B Mukasey and Eric Holder pointing out the monumental miscarriage of justice and gross discrimination meted out to the Indian Graduate Student of Purdue University Vikram Buddhi. Even the judicial misconduct of the US District Judge James T. Moody and professional misconduct of the Prosecutor Philip C. Benson were also brought to the notice of the US Attorney Generals. But it was all in vain.
According to the famous Cyril Connolly “The test of a country's justice is not the blunders which are sometimes made but the zeal with which they are put right.”
The incident of the second time detention of Shahrukh Khan followed by the uproar from Indian Government and Indian People has thrown up some latent lessons not only for the Indians but also for the people of the whole world including the Americans, the US Congress which passes US laws and the US Supreme Court which interprets US Constitution and US laws.
The moral of these lessons is multidimensional- no matter how superior the military muscle of the United States might be the Americans have been experiencing pervasive insecurity for their life after 9/11; the complex web of measures taken by the US authorities to ensure safety of their people pushed the Americans to fear their own shadows no matter how brave they pretend to be; when the law abiding resident aliens in the United States and the aliens entering the United States with valid documents are deprived of their life and liberty from the arbitrary actions and decisions of the US Authorities, the redress for the aliens is costly and out of reach unless they are celebrities like Shahrukh Khan.
Discrimination in the United States against aliens on racial and religious grounds is real. Rule of law in the United States is conspicuous by its absence if the affected people are ill placed and resource-less.
Vesla Weaver, a political science professor at the University of Virginia, has written, “virtually every aspect of life and material well-being is influenced by skin color, in addition to race.”
The first lesson for the Indians is; when the dignity of the Indians is injured in the United States, the Indian Government reacts only if the affected Indian is a celebrity like Shahrukh Khan. Whereas, there is a constitutional responsibility upon the Indian Government to protect the dignity of all Indians, known or unknown, at all times and at all places, because a thirteen member bench of the Supreme Court of India ruled in Keshavananda Bharathi's case, “Dignity of individuals secured by the fundamental rights is part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution which cannot be altered even by the Indian Parliament.”
There are many concrete instances to underline the first lesson for Indians recounted above. We have discussed one such instance. It is from the comparison of the reaction of the Indian Government over the detention of the well-known Shahrukh Khan while on his way to Yale University and the lukewarm approach of the Indian Government towards the imprisonment of an unknown Indian Graduate Student Vikram Buddhi who was pursuing his Ph.D studies at Purdue University.
Dr. Buddhi Kotasubbarao is former Indian Navy Captain with Ph.D in nuclear technology from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. After 24 years of active naval service, took voluntary retirement in the rank of confirmed Captain and thereafter became an advocate of Bombay High Court and Supreme Court of India. In a number of Public Interest Petitions represented the social organisation 'Citizens For A Just Society' founded by Dr.Usha Mehta, noted Gandhian, freedom fighter and Padma Vibhushan.
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