Sunday, 12 May 2013

Arrest a Tourist Carrying no ID?

This is the first-hand account of a 28 year old French tourist who was stopped on the night of May 10th 2012 by undercover policemen on ECR Road. As he forgot to carry his ID, he was taken to the police station and threatened to be jailed, passport confiscated and visa canceled. He knew that it's always advisable for a foreigner in India to carry a photo ID. However even at this point, he is not sure if forgetting to carry an ID on one night can warrant an arrest. 

Also what happens if it is a female tourist who is alone and speaks no English, and is only carrying her credit card with her name on it but she forgot her photo ID. 

Below is his account:

"Last night (May 10th 2013), around midnight I went to the bus station to take an ECR-direction Chennai bus back to my home which is 20km north of Pondicherry. Coming there, I saw nothing. I realised  that no bus is there because of the mob strike of the past two weeks. Some ECR buses were targeted by people so for security reason the drivers are in strike waiting that the political situation is cooling down.

So I decided to took one rickshaw. I negotiated and we went. At the end of Multhialpet, at the cross road of Salai Street, the rickshaw was stopped by policemen  ( they always there at night time); The driver and I went out of the ricshaw. One guy (a plainsclothes policeman) asked me my ID card. I was very relaxed as I did not know he was a policeman and I said "no, I don’t have".

He thought I was treating him like a fool I guess because he became very angry as if I insulted him. He said "How is it possible you have no Id, you are terrorist? Where you come from? France? What? Show you ID card now!"

He insisted more than ten times!! He was basically shouting at me. So I said that " I do not have on me. It is in my place that I'll bring it to you tomorrow.  I can show you my ATM card there is my name on it. It is the only thing I have."

The second guy also with no policemen costume came to me and said: "Do you think you can roam around in India with no ID paper. You know you can go to jail for this?"

I said "Sir, I am sorry."

Firstly  I did not know I was speaking to an officer. I said "You have no dress so…"

So he asked his collegues (ten policemen were there) to confirm his identity even if he did not show his ID!!

And then they took the rickshaw driver as a witness, by asking his paper ID and where he came from. He showed me and said, "Look he has his ID. Can you stay without your ID in France I don’t think so. If me Indian I go to your country and the policemen arrest me they will ask me my ID, am I right?

I said "I don’t know, yes probably."

Then he said, "You know I was staying long time in singapour and there policeman asked my ID and I gave him because its compulsory. You understand. You can go to jail. I'll make a report to your embassy and  let see what happened!! Your visa can be cancelled!"

I was not so sure of myself anymore, but these guys seems to have very rough night to speak to me like if I was a thief or something like this. I tried to justify that I had no idea about it and it won’t make the same  mistake but they were pissed off already saying "Do you think in India you can do whatever you want? At this moment I called my Tamil colleague because he is from the neighbourhood., I asked this officer to talk to him but he refused. Then he said "Ok we go to the police station we make a report."

I told my friend where I was and where we were going. This guy was listening so he told me afterwards, "Oh , you know very well the neighbourhood"

I answered "yes I know little bit."

He shouted "Ah suddenly you know something hein! Where were you before?"

I said that I was with a friend having a diner in Karthik hotel. He said that it is not what the driver said. He said that you come from the bus station,.

I say "Yes of course but before…"

"You are lying!" he shouted!

I was fed up already! So we arrived to the police station they make me write my information on a paper. Not even a register book or something; just to show my passport information and where I am living now. What am I doing here and in france.

He said "So I will write a report tomorrow to your embassy and they will deal with it; you cannot round like this with no ID"

I asked if there is any reason because it is the first time it happened to me  and it been 1 year almost I am living here. He answered strongly, "Read the newspapers!"

I kept quiet this time even if I knew very well about the situation. My friend called me and said he asked our common friend working as police officer to come to the police station. Then, between five minutes they asked what am I doing here? Where have I been?

I answered gently. Afterwards, some minutes after, I don’t know what changed him but he asked me to go and to come back tomorrow to the office to show my identity before 9 am. I said ok no problem. But he wanted to keep my credit card.

I did not understand so I told him that I thought it was no use for you when I earlier showed it.

He said, "No I need something to prove you will come back"

I answered, "But you told me you will send a report to the embassy if I won't come back tomorrow, I don’t understand."

It seems enough. I was going a bit crazy, so I was taking my phone to make another call and then he said "Ok you keep and come back tomorrow."

By taking my stuff, a young policeman, said to me, "You come before 9 am or you will have some problem!"

 I answered by moving my head from right to left meaning that I understood this already.   He said "What , are you fooling me!!??"

I was completely fed up with this. So I went. And I came back next morning  another officer was there, some guys told him about the story in Tamil, even saying that I was lying to them about the place I was coming from ( I understood some words), . so he checked my passport; asking me my information to check.

What I am doing here.? What did I know of Pondicherry and what I did in pondicherry.

I said that most of the time I stay in the village I don’t go so often to Pondy. I came there just to meet friends. He said "That's all? No other place around?"

 I said that I didn't like Auroville, so I prefer to go further so not in villupuram district.

He asked, "Why you don’t like Auroville?

I said I don’t like the mentality. He was laughing and reporting this to the policemen around.
"Ok have a nice day, but don’t forget to have your id always on you."

The point I want to make by narrating this experience is that I never knew that I could be arrested, my passport confiscated and my visa canceled if I did not have an ID card on me. I am not sure if every French citizen in Pondicherry knows this rules.

I think that even without the phone calls to my colleague and the Tamil policeman friend, the same things would happened with the same end.

The important point is that they wanted to afraid me for showing that in India you cannot do whatever you want and there is rules that foreigners have to respect and you have to respect the policeman."

1 comment:

  1. nahhh .. u wrote a dissertation about all this..
    They just wanted 200-500 rupees for beers! It's not about rules or respect. They tried to corner you into bribbing them and what got them angry is you refusing to offer anything!