US Laws Exposed Actual Indian Face
Tariq Rizwan
1/27/2014

 

The arrest of Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade on Dec. 12 has exposed the problems, faced by civil society in India. She worked as a consular official in New York City and was charged with perjury and visa fraud. The offenses pertained to documentation that she had signed attesting to the terms of employment for a housekeeper whom she’d had brought from India.

The arrest of Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade on Dec. 12 has exposed the problems, faced by civil society in India. She worked as a consular official in New York City and was charged with perjury and visa fraud. The offenses pertained to documentation that she had signed attesting to the terms of employment for a housekeeper whom she’d had brought from India.

Her arrest in New York City has triggered a diplomatic row between the United States and India, threatening to damage the very edifice of bilateral relations and rapprochement between the two. The cause of the row is relatively trivial, but it has assumed monstrous proportions as a result of the emotions invested in the dispute.

She was accused of knowingly inflating the amount of money she would pay the domestic and understating the number of hours the housekeeper would work. The real terms of employment violated local laws.

Khobragade was arrested after dropping her children off at school. She was handcuffed, taken to a detention facility, strip-searched and subjected to a DNA swab. While she complained that the treatment was humiliating, U.S. officials countered that all procedures were carried out according to law and for her own safety. Moreover, they say that Khobragade was even afforded special treatment and allowed to make phone calls to sort out personal matters.

Though the arrest triggered uproar in India, yet it is not the first event of its nature. Indians continued to commit such fouls at their will in the past as well. In 2010, Indian maid Shanti Gurung filed a case against the then Indian Consul General of New YorkConsulate Dr Neena Malhotras and her husband Mr Jogesh regarding ill treatment. The case was decided in favour of the maid who was awarded $ 1.5 million, however money has never been paid either by Malhotra nor by Indian government.

Again in 2011, another maid filed a case against Indian Consular General in New York Prabhu Dayal who was accused of several charges like forced labour, less pay and misconduct. The case was, however settled out of court between the parties to avoid embarrassment to Indians in US.

A Sikh group has also filed a case in New York against Sonia Gandhi and others for involvement in 1984 ANTI Sikh riots. Sonia has been given time till Jan 2014 to respond. The Federal Court has also given ruling against Indian UN Mission in New York in 2008 to pay $ 42.4 million on the charges of using its office for residential purposes.

Instead of correcting its ugly tactics of using diplomatic immunity for individual benefits, the Delhi government responded angrily by curtailing privileges afforded to U.S. diplomats in India, removing security barricades in front of the U.S. embassy and snubbing a visiting of U.S. Congressional delegation. Delhi is also checking the tax status of Americans working at schools in the country and has ordered the U.S. embassy to stop “commercial activities on its premises.” Indian media is also reporting that U.S. Embassy cars could be penalized for traffic violations, and there have been protests outside U.S. consulates across the country.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed “regret” over the incident but did not apologize for the arrest. Nor did he attempt to stop the legal proceedings — which he could not do in any case since they were pursued by the U.S. attorney in New York City. Delhi expelled a U.S. diplomat in turn, the standard diplomatic response to such incidents, regardless of cause.

India tried to end the controversy by transferring Khobragade to the United Nations, where she would enjoy full immunity, but the State Department has noted that immunity would not be retroactive. As tensions mounted, the Indian government finally decided to withdraw Khobragade (who is married to a U.S. national). Instead of condemning the ill tactics, at least abroad, she has been given a hero’s welcome in India.

India has to improve her image in the region and mend rifts with her neighbors for fulfilling the desire of becoming a world power the way China and Russia are doing with no harm and interference for all, else a big democracy may become a large and uncontrolled crowd of uncivilized people.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in UK.