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Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Devyani Khobragade case

The arrest and subsequent treatment Devyani Khobragade, deputy consul general in New York, has strained India-USA relationship. She was arrested for visa fraud. She had hired a maid but had not paid salary as per American law. She was handcuffed, put in a cell with drug addicts and other criminals. She was released on a bond of $250,000. She could face 15 years in prison. The news of her strip search created furore.
Hand cuffing is standard procedure in USA. Dominic Straus-Kahn was handcuffed when arrested. It is immaterial that the accused is a woman and mother of two children. There is equality before law. Once an American woman and mother of two children was handcuffed for crashing her car at a barricade near a ground where George Bush was addressing a gathering.
New York District Attorney Preet Bharara, prosecutor in Devyani Khobragade case, is of Indian origin and from Punjab. Devyani Khobragade case was the third case in three years involving an official of deputy consulate general in New York.
US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said standard procedures were followed and Devyani Khobragade was handed over to US Marshals. India was notified in September. Vienna Convention was fully followed. For consular staff diplomatic immunity is for consular duties and not for crimes.
Meira Kumar, Sushilkumar Shinde, Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, and Shivshankar Menon refused to meet the American Congressional delegation. Sushilkumar Shinde said he was busy in Parliament. Salman Khurshid met them. He said what happened to Devyani Khobragade was unacceptable. USA had refused visa to Narendra Modi. Now he was in a position to refuse to meet Americans. Shivshankar Menon said the treatment was barbaric and despicable. Kamal Nath demanded unconditional apology from USA.
Devyani Khobragade’s father Uttam Khobragade met Sushilkumar Shinde. Uttam Khobragade was collector of Bombay when Sushilkumar Shinde was chief minister of Maharashtra. Uttam Khobragade said he should have arrested American deputy consul general when he was in a pub beyond permitted time.
Yashwant Sinha and Rajeev Dogra said gay US diplomats should be arrested. What Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, P. Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal have to say to that? Yashwant Sinha also said we must stop treating American visitors as viceroys. May be the delegation did not want to meet him
Indian government’s reaction was strong. It lodged protest. US diplomats were told to surrender identity cards. Delhi police removed barricades outside American embassy. Parking lots were opened. India claimed it was not a security issue but a traffic issue. The barricades should not have been there in the first place. India reviewed privileges to American diplomats, asked details of salaries of Indians in American Consulates, revoked passes to airports, and followed with such other measures. Omar Abdullah tweeted he was for reciprocity but removing barricades went too far.
The reaction came after New York’s federal court on 16/12/2013 under Alien Tort Claims and Torture Victim Protection Act of 1992 directed Sonia Gandhi to reply by 2/1/2014 to charges of shielding, protecting and rewarding the perpetrators of 1984 anti-Sikh riots filed in a complaint by Sikhs for Justice. The arrest was on 12/12/2013.
Someone said Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi treated diplomats better. Americans are worse than dictators.
This is election time. Congress did badly in recently held state elections. Lok Sabha elections are due in April-May 2014. Congress leadership is accused of being weak. The government should not be seen as weak in dealing with the humiliation of an Indian diplomat. That will become an election issue.
Relationship between countries has to be based on reciprocity. India’s reaction is out of proportion. Refusing to meet Congressional delegation was wrong. Americans are unhappy about that. It seems Indian government’s reaction has more to do with protecting Sonia Gandhi than about treatment to Devyani Khobragade.
On The Social Network of NDTV 24X7, Kashish Gupta raised the issue of minimum wage to maid. Ananya Bhattacharjee said the poor woman who was an Indian citizen and worked as maid for Devyani Khobragade is forgotten by the government and media. Indian government has kept domestic workers out of labour laws. Indian government violates law on minimum wages in India.
Once a member of National Council for Women had written an article in The Indian Express about her experience of trying to get justice for a maid who had worked in Indian embassy in Paris. The member had gone to Jharkhand to inquire about the exploitation of maid. She found the maid was right about her complaints. Many activists hoped the member will get justice for the maid. After the member came to Delhi there was pressure on her to hush up the case. She succumbed to pressure and betrayed the trust of maid and activists. When activists called her on telephone she did not take up the calls.
Some people said Manmohan Singh should have talked to Barack Obama on phone. One person said Barack Obama did not want to meet Manmohan Singh when he was in USA recently and he met because Indians insisted.
Embassy staff members are covered under Vienna Convention 1961. Consulate staff members are covered under Vienna Convention 1963.
There are human rights groups in USA fighting against human trafficking. Some Indians support them. They view visa fraud as a cause of human trafficking. For many Americans human trafficking is modern slavery.
Someone is said India had not succeeded in getting tiny Togo to release Sunil James. How can it sustain pressure on USA?

Updated: December 19, 2013 — 7:42 am

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