New Delhi: An Indian-American woman, Aravinda Pillalamarri, was stopped and asked by police if she was “illegally” in Maryland State of United States.
Aravinda Pillalamarri and her husband were also the inspiration behind Shahrukh Khan’s film ‘Swades’. The incident took place on December 21 last year, was stopped while she was taking her morning walk in her neighbourhood in Bel Air, Maryland
“I had just come out for a walk, so I didn’t have my ID. And he (cop) said, ‘Why don’t you have ID? Are you here illegally? I didn’t expect this to happen in Bel Air. Walking while brown,” Pillalamarri told the official.
“Only when the supervisor asked ‘are you here illegally’ did my sense of colour, and of being unequal, come forth and my interest in my civil rights took a back seat to get out of the situation safely,” she was quoted as saying.
“Public safety does not need to come at the cost of civil rights,” she added. “I am sharing this incident here not to ask anyone here to find fault or take sides. We are all on the same side and can use this as an opportunity to learn and improve. The responsibility to uphold civil rights is one that all of us share, and we need to do our part and also expect the police to do their part.”
On asking why she was questioned so much by the Bel Air Police Department officer, the cop replied, “someone had called the police.”
She was allowed to leave only after other officers came to the scene and checked her name through their computer system.
Bel Air Police chief Charles Moore defended the official. According to him, asking nationality is insensitive, but not racial profiling. “They were trying to figure out why there was some hesitation in providing identification, that’s why he asked if she was illegal,” he said.
Pillalamarri has lived in Bel Air for more than 30 years and is a US citizen.
She spoke about the incident while talking to the members of Bel Air Board at their town meeting on January 17. Pillalamarri appealed that, she was sharing it not to get anyone in trouble but to bring to their attention the need to uphold everyone’s civil rights.