ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Usual Suspects

The Delhi Metro’s warning against “suspicious persons” is a sorry comment on the dangers of racial profiling and stereotyping in the fight against terror.

A nyone who commutes through the Delhi Metro Rail has to suffer a continuous stream of announcements which sometimes reminds me of George Orwell’s “telescreen” in 1984. These announcements are apparently meant for our own convenience and information but I hardly ever pay them much attention. It was only recently that one announcement woke me up. The instruction, amidst caution warnings about unidentified objects and bombs, was to report any “suspicious persons” to the Delhi Metro staff.

At first, this sounds like an innocuous piece of advice. But who is a “suspicious person?” How would one determine suspiciousness in a person? The announcement seems to have taken for granted that there are people who can be labelled as “suspicious persons,” whose suspiciousness may be discerned by ordinary passengers. It follows that in determining someone as being suspicious, ascribed markers like skin colour, name, country or locality, and/or religion may be relevant.  

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