February 23, 2020
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Two Sides, Two Versions, Two Victims

Two Sides, Two Versions, Two Victims
outlookindia.com
1970-01-01T05:30:00+0530

On Saturday, Shekhar Gupta in the Indian Express: Our Indian Feudal Service:

Words like barbaric, despicable, inhuman, perfidy, betrayal, withdraw-all-charges-and-apologise and so on do not belong to the usual diplomatic vocabulary. These are the last resort of editorial writers and TV anchors always short of ideas or a clever turn of phrase. The same foreign service has handled three relatively recent incidents that amount to enormous perfidies — the torture and killing of Captain Saurabh Kalia and his patrol of five in Kargil (June, 1999), the beheading of an Indian soldier and disfiguring of the other on the LoC (January, 2013) and, in between, the greatest and continuing betrayal of all, the American double games over David Coleman Headley — with such mature equanimity...

...It is early for us to pronounce on the merits of the case yet, except that you cannot deny that there is a case, there are two sides, two versions and two victims. The maid, prima facie, is a victim of awful, callous exploitation, and the diplomat of being subjected to the horrible indignities of America's arrest procedures...

Of course, as an Indian, I would also wish that Khobragade is brought back to India, but made to face charges here of allegedly cheating her maid and bringing disrepute to her country by lying on the maid's visa form, if she did that. Chances are, in today's primetime-fuelled hyper-patriotism, she will be hailed as some kind of Jhansi ki Rani. We all know the oft-repeated truism that diplomats are sent abroad to lie for their countries. But are they also paid to lie to their maids, the visa authorities, and then claim immunity?... Sangeeta Richard is Indian too, and poor or rich, must have the same rights as Khobragade.

This case has stumped the political establishment as well. The UPA displays so much fake anger, you wonder when will it rescind the nuclear deal. Khurshid said he won't come to Parliament until Her Excellency the Acting Consul General's honour is restored. Did he think of making some similar sacrifice to restore the dignity of 50,000 Muslims in the camps of Muzaffarnagar, 150 km away? Particularly when he represents Farrukhabad, not so far from there. As for our left-liberal bleeding hearts, they still can't figure out whether to fight for a poor member of The Great Unwashed or take on The Great Satan.

And yesterday, former diplomat Prabhu Dayal, who was Consul General in New York from September 2008 till February 2013; Devyani Khobragade worked as his deputy towards the end of his term and he also faced a lawsuit from his former domestic assistant, on how Indian envoys to the US can fall victim to maids pursuing their American dreams, in the Daily Mail: Fear and loathing in New York:

... in October 2000, the US Congress enacted the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA). In terms of this Act, our domestic assistants who abscond can now obtain a trafficking visa by alleging that they were subjected to involuntary servitude and not paid wages as per US laws. They can get a three year T Visa which gets converted to full resident status.

Naturally, such persons allege that they would face extreme hardship if they were deported back, as Sangeeta Richard has done. In return, they have to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies against the alleged traffickers - their former employers.

Then in 2010, New York state enacted the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, after which there has been a spate of lawsuits filed by domestic workers...

...the TVPA has opened the doors to people like Sangeeta Richard, who can obtain official passports as domestic assistants of our diplomats, get an A3 visa from the US Embassy, reach US shores, work there for some months, abscond and then obtain a T Visa.

The visa fraud allegedly committed by Devyani Khobragade was in fact committed by Sangeeta Richard as she misrepresented her terms of employment to the US Embassy during her interview with the Consular officer to get an A3 domestic worker visa, which would later enable her to leapfrog to a trafficking T Visa.

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