Newspapers carried reports on a man who was called a terrorist by the officials at the Mangaluru airport

Why Malayalees from Kasargod claim they are harassed in Mangaluru airportImage: Kerala Muslim League protest
news Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - 13:51

Last month, a Ranji Trophy player from Kasargod district was delayed at Mangaluru airport after officials told him his visa was fake. 

Twenty-one-year-old Mohammed Azharuddin was travelling to Qatar for a three-day trip as the chief guest of an event organized by the Kasargod Muslim Cultural Centre.

On February 18 while going through the security procedures, officials told him his visa was fake. “Air India Express handed me the boarding pass on the condition that I had to carry 5000 Riyal. My brother who was outside gave me the money. They later asked me for the address proof, which showed them,” said Azharuddin.

However, his ordeal did not end there. Immigration officials told him that someone had duped him by giving him a fake visa.

“They asked for my personal information. They also wanted to know what my deceased parents did years ago and how they died. They kept repeating questions and let me go later,” Azharuddin said.

Kasargod district adjoins Mangaluru city, hence, the airport is the closest point of travel for a large number of people from the district. The other alternative is to travel overnight to Kochi.

In September 2015, a newly married Abdul Khader narrowly missed losing his job. Mangaluru Airport authorities detained him on suspicion of carrying a bomb in his luggage. It turned out to be a misunderstanding but such instances have occurred several times in the last year, especially with men from Kerala’s Kasargod district, prompting a youth organization to protest.

Abdul’s neighbours wanted him to take their iPad to Dubai for repairs as the warranty was only valid there. “During the baggage check, the authorities saw that there was some liquid leaking out and immediately alerted the whole airport saying a man with suspicious object was found. The media picked it up and I was on the front pages of most of the evening papers,” said Khader, who hails from Uppala in Kasargod district.

“I was in custody for 24 hours and later the forensic department in Delhi realised it was not a real case. The media carried small reports of apology the next day, in the inside pages, saying it was a false alarm,” said Khader.

Khader says that if his company in Dubai had known of this mix-up they would not think twice about giving a termination letter. He hopes that airport staff follow the right procedure and not leak information to the media as it might impact the victim’s future.

The Kerala State Muslim Youth League claims that authorities at Mangaluru Airport have harassed at least 15 people from Kerala during the past year, mostly Kasargod district. Last week, the League protested near the airport.

MD Ashraf, the general secretary of the Kasargod unit of the league, alleged that the airport staff were prejudiced against Malayalees and not just Muslims from Kerala.

“People from poor backgrounds travel to the Gulf (countries) and back regularly. They wouldn’t have the level of education or assertiveness to handle the issue,” said Muneer, Khader’s friend.

G T Ramakrishna, director of Mangaluru International Airport initially denied the allegations and said that these claims could be an election strategy. 

Asked whether Mangaluru Airport had stepped up security in during the past year, he said that it always has been conscious of maintaining security and has been recognised internationally as one of the best.

He said that the airport staff would work towards restoring the confidence in the people especially from Kasargod district. 

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