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India: security levels in public spaces (#4).

India’s security is unlike anything I’ve seen before. I’m amazed at just how much security is in public spaces.

The military has been present at every airport I’ve been to here, which are Mumbai, Delhi, and Hyderabad (the largest and busiest airports).

Obtaining Visa

When obtaining my visa in Hong Kong, I had to fill out several pages of extra information, including relatives and contacts in Pakistan, my religious affiliation, and other political information. Basically, if they see that I have ties with Pakistanis, I would not be allowed in.

I needed to write down one contact I had in India and in China. Thank goodness for my study abroad contact in Beijing.

The visa office needed to hold onto my visa for one day for processing, so I had to stay an extra day there.

The Airport

The freeway leading in and out of each airport, around 200-400 meters away from the terminal, included a pillbox with a machine gun, and a soldier pointing that gun right at me. Scary as shit. There are roadblocks in front of the pillbox, so all cars have to slow down and weave through the roadblock while the gun is pointed right at them.

Armed military check your passports and boarding pass before you are allowed inside. They let me in only because I showed them my travel plan in my phone (I don’t print my boarding passes online, I check in manually). Once you check in, you are no longer allowed out of the airport unless airline personnel sign you out.

Airport security guards frisks your entire body, even if you didn’t sound the metal detector.

Public Spaces

I’ve had to go through metal detectors in public spaces such as large parks, hotels, religious temples, and shopping centers. No outside food is allowed.

Armed guards patrol these areas. I’ve seen semi-automatic rifles, folded automatic rifles, and shotguns being wielded by the guards. That’s a big difference compared to American officers carrying 9mm and .45 pistols (or rent-a-cops carrying flashlights and pepper spray HAHAHA sorry).

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Thoughts

This was all fascinating to me. It’s hard to imagine that Delhi airport has suffered terrorist attacks in the past, or that Hyderabad had terrorist activities just two years ago. Terrorism normally seems so far away to me, so being so close to it feels strange and a bit frightening.

I would have taken pictures of the half-track parked outside the airport, or the soldiers packing hand cannons in public spaces, except I didn’t feel like getting a hole the size of an apple carved into my chest.

On a side note, I’m not going to lie: every time I get on an airplane, I wonder if I’m going to die. I’ve had dreams about dying in a plane crash for years now, YEARS.

Knock on wood.

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