Thursday, February 29, 2024

When you think of Aryan, don’t forget it’s Mumbai which still lives the 26/11 nightmare

This is written without in any way wishing to comment or pass judgement on the much in the news specific bail related discussions underway in India currently, which is for the Honourable Courts to decide on, not a variety of media butterflies who flit from topic to topic as required.

To the best of my knowledge, bail in India, especially for what can be clubbed together as non-heinous crimes, depends largely also on the accused being able to provide a property (could be money) and a surety (could be a respectable person from or near the jurisdictional area.) Think about this from the point of view of the vast number of economically and environmentally Internally Displaced Indian Citizens (IDIC), sadly also referred to as “migrants” in their own country.

Example – an IDIC moves from one State to another to earn a livelihood, and lands up in a small town far away from home. After a few days, he or she, if lucky, gets a job – could be at a commercial establishment or residential location. After two or three months, the IDIC dares to ask for due wages, and in return gets a false case foisted on him or her.

Lesson learnt, and soon the IDIC finds solace in seeking revenge on such an unfair system, or joins the vast ranks of daily wagers seen standing off streets and roads all over the country – where the maximum risk is one day’s wages. At this juncture, I am not going into those who are co-opted by whatever method, into entering the world of crime as a condition for somebody standing surety with property and signature.

So, is narcotics, possession, trafficking or trading, a non-heinous crime? The answer, as always, is not a binary. One factor that appears to have been overlooked by most opinions is – where was the location where the incident took place? Was the detention and then arrest at a seaport of a city that was the location of the worst sea-borne terrorist attack in history?

Ship’s crew are not even allowed ashore, regardless of Nationality, think about it. That’s how serious it is. Mumbai Seaport has a security level even higher than that of Mumbai Airport – and that is saying something. And this is a foreign flag ship at the International Cruise Terminal, Ballard Pier – not the Domestic Cruise and Ferry Terminal near Ferry Wharf. 

Some terminology needed here. Assuming an international arrivals and departure passenger ship terminal, a foreign flag ship at the terminal, and the complete repertoire of Government agencies found at any international airport.

This is how passenger ship terminals work – using airport terms for international global for simplicity but they use the same at sea.

Landside High Security – Cab drops you outside the gate. Last chance to smoke weed or throw it in a dustbin, whether Amsterdam or Delhi, was well before the airport or seaport terminals. Not even a trace on clothes. This is “personal consumption”, but High-Security is something else, and laws vary by country.

Landside Grey Area – Port State Government, in India the CISF soldier or equivalent checks your ticket, ID and assesses you. Port State Government till the Airline does check-in, regardless of the flag of the airplane or ship. At this point you are very much also under a grey area because you are still under the Port State Landside physically but your bags have moved into a separate AirSide loop and God help you if you have prohibited/contraband in them. On ships you may still have your baggage with you or it may have moved on a separate vehicle for examination. The signage on what is prohibited, contraband, and what will happen if your baggage or you are contravening Port State Laws are now truly strict – because here onwards it becomes “trafficking” also. As well as crossing borders.

Emigration Outbound and Customs – No Man’s Land. If you are caught with weed or explosives here, any amount, you are in deep kaka. Who your Father, PSO or local shock and awe attributes are, shall be of no use anymore. Whether you like it or not, realise it or not, matters have been documented and erasure is impossible as well as not going to happen.

Post Emigration and Customs – Now you are in what is known as AirSide. It gets worse because International Conventions kick in here in full force. You are past the Point of Return or saying Sorry. Enough choices were given and fine print signed. There may also be some more checking before boarding the actual airplane or ship. This could be either Port State Government, Aircraft or Ship Flag State Government, or airline/ship crew. For ship’s, you can expect all three. And truly strict. I helped set some up.

So what was landside a minor misdemeanour, converts itself into a major felony once you entered the terminal, to use global crime terminology, and becomes even worse when you reached airside. This is Mumbai Seaport, 26/11, never forget.

On ships where I have worked, especially Mumbai, and this is Standard Operating Procedure, there is no question of discussion or winking an eye if the sniffer dogs get happy or the assortment of detection equipment start beeping or even if passengers are overheard or observed what can be considered suspicious. The ship’s crew are, with the powers of the Master of the ship, judges of the fact – and the final decision on whether you will be allowed onboard or not vests with them. Refund is not their concern, and the ship’s crew or airline crew are indemnified from retaliation, with sufficient cause documented.

But it is not so simple – sending a passenger back after entering the terminal or the ship, or even touching the gangway, needs documented reasons, and then a formal handing over back to the Port State Government agencies at the terminal by the Flag State authorities (airline or ship’s crew).

Port State in India is the Union of India, for both airports or seaports, landside, airside and onboard till over territorial jurisdictions. It is then up to the Port State Authorities – but by now, a huge document trail follows the incident, which also has international ramifications.

Mumbai International Cruise Terminal – same, or stricter rules, as Mumbai International Airport. (Port State is the Union of India)

Mv EMPRESS / EMPRESS OF THE SEAS, currently flying a Bahamas Flag (Flag State is Commonwealth of Bahamas)

Let’s get serious. 26/11 taught our seaports a lot of lessons. Most people, especially media and commentators, don’t have the faintest clue on steps being taken to prevent another such episode. Narcotics, terror, explosives – they are all linked. If your family, friends or you are heading towards a seaport in India – get serious.

I don’t know whether weed is legal and where – but I do know – whether Amsterdam or and Indian Airport/Seaport, have your last puff well before you enter the terminal and discard any traces on body or baggage. Get into freshly washed clothes, for example, and simply don’t use anything in or as baggage that may have traces of narcotics or explosives.

(I have been pulled up at an American Airport because my laptop case had traces of Diwali fire-cracker residue on it. It took some time and effort sorting that out. Narcotics is worse.)

I hope this helps explain bail across different levels. Domestic crimes vs International crimes, in narcotics, have a huge difference. For people who claim ancestry from countries where perps are routinely executed for possession, imagine if they were to be deported back? Would they get bail?

Veeresh Malik was a seafarer. And a lot more besides. A decade in facial biometrics, which took him into the world of finance, gaming, preventive defence and money laundering before the subliminal mind management technology blew his brains out. His romance with the media endures since 1994, duly responded by Outlook, among others.

A survivor of two brain-strokes, triggered by a ship explosion in the 70s, Veeresh moved beyond fear decades ago. 

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