Monday, December 23, 2013

Our misplaced & juvenile outrage - a hyped case of Devyani Khobragade

(these are my personal views based on the information available in public domain. I would love to be corrected on factual inaccuracies, if any)
(I could have taken a 'safer' middle path while analysing this issue - basically meaning not taking a stand and sounding politically correct. I have deliberately chosen to take a stand, considered extreme and unfair by some, which analysis the issue from a devil's advocate viewpoint- what if this was true!)  

George Clemenceau, an early 20th century French PM famously said "war is too important a matter to be left to the generals" (TOI dated Jan 11, 2014). Here is a case of an individual who has put relations of India and US at stake for some silly stupid mess she created in her private capacity. And brethren of her feudal service, in a clear case of conflict of interest, continue to serve their own limited personal interests rather than what's fair & appropriate and what's good for the country.
The larger issue is - should foreign policy of the country be left to service diplomats? Have they not caused serious dent in our image as a nation with mature outlook by indulging in petty juvenile tactics which media is too eager to catch on to whip up gullible frenzy on primetime?

The ongoing case of the alleged & perceived “high-handedness” by the American authorities with an Indian “Diplomat” Ms Devyani Khobragade (DK henceforth) presents an intriguing case of foreign diplomacy, role of media especially electronic media, political compulsions of parties desperate for an issue which would strike a chord with voters and how a nation’s opinion can be whipped up in a frenzy with utter disregard to facts and laws!
The version which was brought out in Indian media is that Ms Devyani Khobragade (DK), a 1999 batch officer of the prestigious Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and a diplomat, posted in New York in Indian Consulate as Deputy Counsel General was handcuffed and arrested by New York Police Department on alleged visa fraud charges and underpayment to her house keeper Sangeeta Richard (SR) while she was dropping her daughter to school on December 12, 2013. She was later released on a $250,000 bond. In her mail sent to her colleagues, DK has alleged that during the interrogation process, she was “strip and cavity searched” and was made to stand along with other criminals and that US authorities didn’t take cognizance of her diplomatic immunity into consideration.

There has been uproar in Indian media since then. People in India are incensed over the manner a Diplomat, having immunity, a woman and a mother was saree-searched and arrested. People feel it’s a national shame and a major dent in nation’s dignity. It has somehow become a matter of nation’s pride and a momentum is being built up that its time India can’t be taken as a banana republic and should retort in the same language to US. One of the central ministers has said that “I won’t return to Parliament if I do not restore the dignity of our diplomat”.  The frenzy that’s been built up during the last ten days is almost akin to a war in the name of restoring the dignity of a woman diplomat. In Indian media, US is being pressurized not only to “express regret” and “apologize unconditionally” but also” withdraw cases” charged upon DK.
Let’s examine what are the actual facts, whether there has been a violation of immunity granted to a Diplomat, whether the dignity of a woman diplomat was compromised, whether US is wrong in what it did and whether the hysterical frenzy in India has any basis? DK, in her email to higher authorities called on the Indian government to preserve the dignity of the country's diplomatic service which was "unquestionably under siege".  Indian Foreign Secretary summoned the US ambassador to India Nancy Powell and told her the "humiliation" was "absolutely unacceptable". For me, the crucial issue is whether all this happened what’s pointed out by DK in her email and in the manner as described?

Let me take up issues in question-answer form and try & unravel the mystery.

1.     What are the charges levied against DK on which NYPD acted and whether it was a sudden, unannounced and unanticipated one –sided action by them ?
As per the US immigration rules, a declaration form has to be filled in while applying for visa of the domestic help intended for the diplomat. This form contain details about the service conditions of the domestic help, hours of work, remuneration to be given (which should comply with the minimum wages in US) and so on.
DK paid lesser than what was declared to her domestic maid SR and made her to work longer hours. The fact she paid less has been acknowledged but ignored as something which is routinely done by Indian diplomats. It wasn’t sudden as the US authorities had been in touch with US consulate and did inform in writing in September about the violations.

Conclusion – There are violations under the US laws indulged in by DK!
2.       Did DK, being a “high ranking” (as media often quotes) Diplomat has an immunity granted which was dis-regarded by US authorities while initiating action against her?


What I understand that while there is an immunity granted to Diplomats working in Indian Embassies and High Commissions, the same is not available for Diplomats working in Consulates. DK was working as Dy Counsel General in NY and was not having the required immunity thus. The mere fact of being a Diplomat doesn’t automatically entitle one to have immunity. Otherwise, what else can explain the swiftness with which DK was transferred from the office of Counsel General to the office of permanent mission of India in UN in NY? She will have immunity in UN which wasn’t there otherwise in her posting as Dy Counsel General.

Conclusion – DK didn’t have diplomatic immunity at the time of arrest as required which would have prevented her arrest. She had a limited immunity which wasn’t applicable in the case under consideration!

ps - Newspapers on December 26, have pointed out that DK was also accredited as an "advisor to the permanent mission of India to the UN" by the UN from Aug 26, 2013 which was valid till December 31 and by virtue of this, she had full diplomatic immunity at the time of arrest. Her arrest thus was "contrary to her status on that date" sources said. I wish all this is true though the question remains as to why this fact hasn't been brought out till now!
3.       Was DK “hand-cuffed” while she was on her way to drop her daughter to school early morning? Was she strip-searched? Was she made to undergo “cavity search” and “DNA swab”? Was she treated in an in-human condition?
The Indian media, based perhaps on DK’s email to her colleagues, has been highlighting the high handed behavior of NYPD authorities – more specifically, how she was hand-cuffed (without any notice when she was on her way to drop her daughter at the school early morning), how she was strip searched and how she was made to undergo cavity search and exposed to DNA swabbing.
If true, any Indian or for that matter anybody would feel incensed on such a harsh and cruel treatment being meted out to a woman, a mother (especially in front of her daughter in the school when she was dropping her)! One would also feel angry why she was strip searched and made to undergo cavity searched? After all, she is not a criminal or a fugitive. Why should she be arrested?  DK in her email said she stressed to arresting authorities that she had diplomatic immunity but was still subjected to repeated searches.

"I must admit that I broke down many times as the indignities of repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches, swabbing, in a hold-up with common criminals and drug addicts were all being imposed upon me despite my incessant assertions of immunity,"
The crucial question is – whether she was handcuffed?  Whether she was made to undergo cavity search? & DNA swabbing? 

The US attorney Mr Preet Bharara says that DK was never handcuffed during the entire process.  She wasn’t made to undergo cavity search process. She was strip searched by a US lady Marshall which is the practice for any legal process under the circumstances.  “From what we have been able to confirm, a strip search did take place. However, no cavity search took place,” Nikki Credic, spokesperson for the US MarshalService confirmed. Devyani has claimed she was subjected to a strip search as well as a cavity search. Credic said, “There is a difference between the two. She (DK) may not know the difference. But whatever happened was all as per rules.”.

About Devyani’s claim of being placed in the same cell as drug addicts, Credic replied she was “placed in a cell with other female defendants awaiting court proceedings”. The USMS, Southern District of New York, handled Khobragade’s intake and detention in accordance with USMS Policy Directives and Protocols.”

Now, DK says she was handcuffed and cavity searched while the US authorities say she wasn’t. Who do we trust? We have a dilemma.

It’s sheer coincidence that around the same time, the judicial commission in India enquiring into the “Adarsh” Housing Society allocation scam have come out with their report (on December 20, 2013). Interestingly, both DK and her father, a conferred IAS officer now retired, had a flat each in the said Society and DK in her affidavit to Government has not mentioned details about Rs 20 lakhs differential while buying the flat (the allocation itself is contentious because of the dubious role of her father in granting extra FSI to the building while he was still in service). Such a suppression of information is prima facie malafide.

There are reports in media that DK undertook another declaration from SR, hiding some key provisions esp. those relating to minimum wages, her rights as a domestic servant and overtime etc.

Why am I mentioning these extraneous factors? Well, to make out a case that between the two, I would put my money on US attorney Mr. Bharara.  On a question of who’s telling the truth and presenting a correct picture. It’s very easy, under such circumstances, for DK to whip up public sympathy and emotions by presenting a picture as she has. I will not be surprised if the US authorities have a video of the entire proceedings, right from her arrest till her release!

Conclusion – DK (the woman, the mother, the diplomat) was never handcuffed, never cavity searched and was accorded all necessary courtesies, much more than what’s available to others under the circumstances!

4.       Is this an issue just about Devyani?
         Is Devyani India and is India Devyani?
         What about the maid?
Media in India has only portrayed DK as the victim in this case. There is frustration and disappointment that the media (and the officials) has portrayed this story in the way that they have. The crime (the visa fraud, underpayment, fudging documents and exploitation of the maid as alleged by the victim and her lawyers) in the case is being “overshadowed” and the focus should be on the “crimes that were committed rather than on the criminal defendant”.    

Ruchir Gupta, in “the Hindu” has pointed out that India unfortunately had two standards in this case: one for what a middle-class woman needs and feels and another for what a working-class woman needs and feels. India has two citizens in this case, not one — Devyani Khobragade and Sangeeta Richard. India needs to stand by both. Both are looking for protection from unfair treatment. However, one is being blamed for speaking up while the other has been turned into a heroine, whose honour is tied up with India’s honour. Ms. Richard not only had to work for Ms. Khobragade in New York for less than the legal minimum wage but was also forced to sign documents saying she was earning more. When she objected and left her employment, her family in Delhi was threatened and cases were filed against her in a Delhi court for flouting her visa conditions.  While India has rightfully objected to the treatment of its diplomat, it needs to address the fact that she broke the law of the host country she was posted to.
The diplomat not only did not pay legal wages, she also falsified documents and then tried to intimidate the victim’s family by filing a case in the Delhi High Court. If Ms. Richard “stole” money and a phone as the Indian embassy press release says, then a police case ought to have been filed in New York and not Delhi, a city where Ms. Khobragade has connections and influence.  The victim and her family were hiding in fear of retaliation by Ms. Khobragade’s family and the government till they left Delhi for New York (am not surprised seeing the “very aggressive” Mr Khobragade, the father of DK on NDTV debate aired on December 22, 2013)

5.       Is there a class divide in favour of the rich, influential and media savvy?
Shekhar Gupta, in his editorial “Our Indian Feudal Class” in IE dated December 21, 2013, has pointed out that the issue involves three tricky issues – class, caste and caste. Class because in a row between master and servant, class will always triumph. Caste because DK is a dalit and so the insult is compounded and caste again because in the caste hierarchy of bureaucracy, the highest caste of all is the IFS.

This class divide has influenced our reactions to both women. Our anger against Ms. Richard is based on our own sense of entitlement over the poor and the working class. We feel betrayed when they ask for anything that we have not conferred on them out of the “largeness” of our hearts (instead of being thankful that she got a chance to work in the US of A, how dare she questions her less wages and long working hours? How can US authorities airlift her family from India? Oh, it means that all of them are now going to be permanently in US!!).  We have two standards for what a middle-class woman needs and feels and what a working-class woman needs and feels. While we are quick to point out that the salaries of our foreign diplomats need to be raised so that they can afford to pay their domestic help according to U.S. standards, we omit to note that we have no minimum wages in India for our own domestic help. Routinely, domestic helps in India are exploited in terms of no. of working hours, pay, living conditions and leave. Live-in help in middle-class India usually work round the clock.
Perhaps that is why Ms. Khobragade did not feel she was doing anything wrong in breaking the U.S. law. Her outlook was conditioned and normalized by the working conditions of domestic help in India. Patriotism is not just about standing by the rich and powerful but about standing by Gandhi’s “last” (the poorest and weakest) individual or Ambedkar’s Dalit (oppressed) person.  It is in a way such a paradoxical situation that the ‘dalit’ (oppressed person – SR in this case) is being oppressed by a ‘Dalit’ !

6.       Role of the ambitious (totally negative connotation as per Indian media) Mr. Preet Bhara, US attorney and his ‘anti India’ stand  (How dare somebody born in India work against Indians even when they are at the wrong end of law!)
A lot of mud has been thrown in Indian media on Mr Preet Bharara over his alleged anti-Indian stand in this case and him being "anti-Indian" in general. Infact, a case is being made out as if, in order to prove his loyalty (in his ambitious climb to lay his claims for higher positions), he has been going after Indians deliberately! Take the case of Rajat Gupta! In fact, Mr Bharara is often called as Sherriff of the Wall Street.  
 

“This office’s sole motivation in this case, as in all cases, is to uphold the rule of law, protect victims, and hold accountable anyone who breaks the law — no matter what their societal status and no matter how powerful, rich or connected they are,” he  has said.  (anything wrong ?)

Bharara said Khobragade evaded US laws designed to protect the domestic employees of diplomats and consular officers from exploitation. He has rebutted reports of the diplomat not being given proper treatment and has denied that she was arrested in front of her children and handcuffed.  He said there has been “misinformation and factual inaccuracy” in the reporting on the Khobragade case which is “creating an inflammatory atmosphere”. 

Accusing Khobragade of fraud, Bharara said: “Not only did she try to evade the law, but as further alleged, she caused the victim and her spouse to attest to false documents and be a part of her scheme to lie to US government officials... So it is alleged not merely that she sought to evade the law, but that she affirmatively created false documents and went ahead with lying to the US government about what she was doing”. Further,  One wonders whether any government would not take action regarding false documents being submitted to it in order to bring immigrants into the country. One wonders even more pointedly whether any government would not take action regarding that alleged conduct where the purpose of the scheme was to unfairly treat a domestic worker in ways that violate the law. And one wonders why there is so much outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian national accused of perpetrating these acts, but precious little outrage about the alleged treatment of the Indian victim and her spouse?”.
 He added that as the alleged conduct of Khobragade makes clear, “there can be no plausible claim that this case was somehow unexpected or an injustice.”

He said while the law is clearly set forth on the State Department website, there have been other public cases in the United States involving other countries, and some involving India, where the mistreatment of domestic workers by diplomats or consular officers was charged criminally.
This being so, why are we Indians feeling so agitated with him? The Indian media has made him some sort of “DESH-DROHI” , a traitor ! And why? Just because he is of Indian origin? The fact that he is a US attorney doesn’t cut any ice with us?  Does that mean he should ignore the illegalities indulged in by “Indians or Indian origin people in US”? As US attorney, is it not his duty to ensure that law of the land is upheld?  He must be getting number of cases and if few pertain to Indians, should we doubt his credentials? If at all, I would credit him for doing his job perfectly. Some people in media have raised questions about his clarification and the authority under which it was issued. To me, he is simply trying to dispel the factual inaccuracies in the case and thereby making as effort to thaw the enraged feelings arisen due to misinformation. What’s wrong with it?

7.       Have we (as Indians) over-reacted?
Indian diplomacy, in Shekhar Gupta’s words, has a well-deserved reputation for conservative understatedness. One would rarely see an Indian diplomat grandstanding or headline-hunting.  What can in that case explain such a radical shift in the style and manner of such a classy, sophisticated and patient foreign bureaucracy? Words like “barbaric, despicable, inhuman, perfidy, betrayal, withdraw-all-charges-and-apologize” do not generally belong to foreign diplomatic vocabulary and generally the domain of TV anchors intent on ‘breaking news’!

"India is siding with a woman who was in the wrong who lied, paid her help poorly and now is brazen enough to claim that she should not be treated like a criminal," said a column in The Washington Post titled 'Why India is upset about Devyani Khobragade, and why it's wrong'. The New York Times criticized the Indian government for its stand on Khobragade - "India's overwrought reaction to the arrest of one of its diplomats in the US is unworthy of a democratic movement,". It further says that  "Officials in New Delhi have inflamed anti-American outrage instead of calling for justice, especially for the domestic worker who is at the heart of the case."
The editorial titled 'India's Misplaced Outrage' claimed even more disturbing was the fact that Indian officials would take extreme steps to retaliate for the arrest, such as removing security barriers at the US Embassy in New Delhi.  "Despite the way many Indians seem to view the case, it is not a challenge to India's honour. It is a charge against one diplomat accused of submitting false documents to evade the law. Ms. Khobragade's lawyer said she would plead not guilty and challenge the arrest on the grounds of diplomatic immunity, which prosecutors say does not apply in this case," the daily said.

This has not been the first case of this nature. There have been two similar incidents in the past in US and a more ghastly one which happened to an Indian diplomat in Birmingham, UK. The issue which remains unresolved in my mind is why should a responsible democracy like us inflame the situation without even establishing the veracity of facts? It certainly doesn’t speak of a mature diplomacy.
Let’s examine why? I have two immediate reasons coming to my mind:

i)                 The Lok Sabha parliamentary elections are round the corner and political parties are desperately looking for a reason which can unite the voters on a common cause the party is espousing for. Fuelling hyper-patriotism at this juncture will strike an emotional chord with voters !

ii)               The IFS fraternity, realizing that it could happen to any of them, have got united and taken it up as an issue requiring immediate action by the Government of India. There has been a demand by the IFS fraternity to include India- based domestic assistants (IDBA) under the IFS service rules which would facilitate taking such domestic help ‘legally’ without subverting the system. Much has been said about Khobragade's salary not good enough to pay Richard the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour ($8 from next year). But no one is entitled to a domestic worker. And why should an Indian tax payer pay for such luxury?

8.       Role of DK’s father?
I must admit that the comic touch in the entire episode has been Mr Uttam Khobragade, father of DK! One can’t miss his ‘conspiracy theory’ (By whom? Against whom?) and verbal avalanche on the injustice being meted out to his traumatized daughter (plush posting in NY, now to UN permanent mission) by the US and why India should keep fighting for the dignity of his daughter! (what about poor maid Saar?...does she exists?
The most hilarious part has been his threat to go on hunger strike till justice is done to his daughter! Mr Khobragade for those of us not aware, he is a retired IAS officer (conferred) from Maharastra, has got two flats in the controversial Adarsh Society (meant for the families of Kargil war victims) and prominently occurs in the report pertaining to the scam. There are at least 12 properties (land and flats) officially declared by DK most of which are inherited from her father. The queries by some of the print media (HT for one) regarding the source of income have gone unanswered. Newspapers also assert that he has political ambitions and has often used his clout (!) in favor of her daughter whether it’s regarding her postings or the preferential treatment accorded to her. More on him here if one is interested.

It’s totally unfathomable to me as to why he is jumping around like a cat on a hot pan, shuffling from one channel to another and trying to hog the newly found glory. I also wonder why he never looks at the camera straight (looking into the eyes as they say!). Perhaps he wishes all that’s done so far (Adarsh etc) will be forgotten in this excitement. Only time will tell. But to listen to his tirades on primetime (you must watch him on NDTV for his sheer threatening arrogance and incomprehensible logic) is a sorry state of our stand if that’s how it is.
9.       So, have these “strong protests” and “Indian patriotism” made any difference?

Not to the best of my knowledge. All this talk of “withdraw the cases and apologize” hasn’t cut any ice with US authorities so far. The US has ruled out acceding to either of the two Indian demands -withdrawal of charges against DK and an apology for alleged mistreatment, after her arrest in New York last week. "We take these allegations very seriously. We're not in any way walking back from those allegations or the charges. Again, this is really a law enforcement issue," the US State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf said. "We certainly take these types of allegations very seriously though. It's not a decision for us whether to prosecute or not," Harf said. She called "highly inaccurate" India's allegations that the United States did not respond to the series of letters and communications that were made by it.

They are yet to receive any request from Indian Government with regard to transfer of Khobragade to India's Permanent Mission to the UN, she said. India had said that this move would give her the necessary diplomatic immunity. Harf, however, said this immunity would not be retroactive. "Generally speaking, if there's a change in immunity, because of a different diplomatic status, that immunity would start on the date it's conferred, after the process," she added. DK, was granted immunity based on her posting in UN mission on Monday (December 23) and she was also granted exemption from appearing in the court in the on going case.

 So, we have gained nothing, absolutely nothing with all this domestic fretting and fuming !
My conclusion

Some harsh conclusions as to why this episode has become a center-stage.

1.       An image of a saree clad, bechari types, young mother going to drop her daughter to school being arrested and handcuffed (as reported) angered and evoked extremely sharp reactions from Indians against those who did (US) – people didn’t bother to verify the facts.

2.       The fact she was arrested even though she had diplomatic immunity showed US acting in a high handed manner – facts that she had limited or no immunity or that US did based on violations of its laws went to deaf ears.

3.       Post-election results in 4 states, political parties, desperate to have a national issue which could whip up nation’s frenzy, this issue was exaggerated to a ridiculously high levels – it has compromised our image as a mature democracy having diplomatic finesse.

4.       I am daring to say that the issue caught nation’s attention when pictures of DK was repeatedly displayed on all channels, in print media like a power point presentation, presenting her as somebody glamorous and yet caring in her role as a mother. I wonder whether there would have been same frenzy if it happened to be a male diplomat or a senior woman diplomat who would have been dignified though not a ready glamour picture pushed on your face. This is a typical male psyche which comes out clearly.

5.       Devyani Khobragade has played with the emotions of millions of people in India if she has exaggerated about the “mis-treatment”. The image of a nation, the largest democracy in the world (of course we are also responsible- we emotional fools) has been compromised.

6.       We, as a nation, have compromised on our maturity by showing misplaced aggression which was almost bordering on juvenility. It was a clear case of misplaced outrage and national patriotism.

7.    If we are so enrageable and patriotic, we should have taken up the case of extradition of David Coleman Headley (born Daood Sayed Gilani ) from US for his clear involvement in Mumbai attacks in 2008. We have, as usual, opted for an easy way out!
 
We need to act with patience and restore our dignified diplomacy in the world arena. It’s also time our diplomats act with the dignity and responsibility – after all, they represent us as a nation.

 
Latest status update
 
DK was indicted in NY court on January 9, 2014 on two counts of visa fraud and misrepresentation of facts. DK has been expelled from the US and she promptly flew back to India on January 11. She has been barred entry into the US and her name would be placed in visa and immigration lookout system to prevent routine issue of visa. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki has saif that her departure from US doesn't change the charges against her. A warrant may be issued for her arrest. It means that DK is treated as a "person non grata" and would be permitted to visit US only to subject herself to the jurisdiction of court.  


20 comments:

  1. Fantastic article Arvind. I found it extremely interesting, informative and engrossing. While I agree with you in entirety, I would still like to submit that the manner of execution (however mild) by American authorities did not require that kind of display. Irrespective of DK's domestic help's manipulation(signing two contracts), she (DK) still technically deserves to be treated with respect and courtesy as she has not committed a heinous crime and needs to be put behind bars and cleared out of the streets of NYC immediately. I always believe that at home we may have the differences but those need not be displayed and acknowledged to outsiders. Sangeeta chose to work there and if she found that she is not being compensated appropriately she could have quit her job. If SR did not have that option then that is definitely not acceptable and illegal. As per American law, it is DK who has done something illegal and US law should focus on her. I really do not understand logically how and why our American friends are helping SR and her family. What do they want to prove?
    BTW, I do not believe it's an attack on India's sovereignty ( Her papa needs to calm down and stop fooling people, we are not politicians bhai) - Girish Dhawan

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  2. Quite a biased view in my opinion. Finding fault on one's own instead of being upset about the ill-treatment our representative has been subjected to

    Let us not get into technicalities here. Devyani is a Senior Indian diplomat (represents India) in the US and not a NRI or an Indian American. Agreed, she broke the laws of the land where she was a resident. The crime committed is more economy related and it could well be the case that the maid wanted to take advantage of the situation. We for sure do not know the truth. The Americans could have handled this more finesse and diplomatically instead of taking our Indian representative to jail and strip searching her.

    Indians have done the right thing by asking about the American diplomats working on Indian soil. I am sure they would have broken a couple of Indian laws and surely there would be strip search options in our laws as well. We can find a good prosecutor who can argue the case for strip searching an American diplomat for some fault he/she committed.

    I am pretty sure China or Russia would have responded much more strongly than we did had their diplomat been subjected to strip search. There would have been counter arrests. The way I look at it, we should have been better prepared to make such counter arrests.

    Our Indian diplomacy has traditionally been reactive and we definitely are not provocative. I am quite happy about the way we have been so far. When India becomes stronger, the World will benefit. The Chinese and the Americans on the other hand have proactive diplomacy, the case of Chinese incursion and now arrest of our diplomat by the Americans. The least we could have done is protest such provocative actions, to which you seem to object.

    Yes, there are economic considerations. But then, it is a two way street. Sanctions were imposed on after nuclear armament. We turned out alright. Have some pride man.

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  3. Mr Anonymous...I should respond to few of the questions raised by you
    1. Why shouldn't we get into the technicalities? after all, the entire issue revolves around her violating local laws. Since she had limited immunity/didn't have the required immunity, US has gone ahead with its laws. What's wrong with it?
    2. "She's is senior diplomat (represents India) and not an NRI or American Indian " - That's precisely my point. Being in a responsible position and supposed to be representing the country, She should have acted in a manner expected and should have acted in accordance with the local laws. She can't lie or falsify records (just because its being done this way)...regularity or precedence in legal violations doesn't make the act right. Because she is supposedly representing India, she should not have violated local laws. The image of the country has come down. She's no different from and NRI or American Indian (to quote you)
    3. Why is India asking about US diplomats now? It should have done so, on its own without it being seen as a juvenile retaliation. This act lacks tact and maturity as expected in diplomacy.
    4. I wonder whether Chinese/Russian diplomats would violate local laws in this manner. And if they do, they should be exposed to a similar treatment for violations. Thinking and feeling good over the manner India has supposedly reacted hasn't made us stronger in any manner. If at all, it has shown immaturity and impatience dealing with such a situation from our side.
    5. I am a proud Indian and that's why it hurts and pains me how our image and integrity has been put on stake by a selfish, illegal act of an individual.

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  4. I agree with Arvind fully. If we are true Indian with civil courage we will behave with integrity and upright ness. Which DK didn't do at all. And emotions were exploited to yhe hilt. Time to bring back the ties indo us to absolute Normalcy.

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  5. Brilliant! The prime-time television hosts should take some cues from you -- they make a mockery of the journalistic spirit of fact-based analysis.

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  6. The press does not have ALL facts out since the facts are not known. We have not seen any of the forms filled out by DK or the maid, they are all allegations as we know today. We are no one to pass judgements - let the courts decide. However, if we do not respect ourselves, no one will respect us. We need to respect ourselves first. Today it is DK, tomorrow it will be you or me. Stand up and learn to respect yourself first.

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  7. Mr IB...I can't respect myself if I don't follow the rules. Especially, if I am supposedly representing my country. And juvenile retaliation (at least that's what we are under the impression) is no way of respecting ourselves. Wonder why India had granted special privileges in the first place and why is it choosing to withdraw them now? It's not a sign of matured diplomacy. Your point - let the facts be established before rushing into something which will strain long term relations

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  8. fully endorse the opinion of the Author. This issue has unnecessarily been given undue importance. The Diplomat should have followed the rule of the land and could have been a role model. Being an IFS Officer, should haven't resorted to poor paying to the Domestic Help. And, having caught guilty by the US Government, unnecessarily drawing the attention of the Media. Indians, as usual, cry on caste basis! How can one treat an Officer of Rank and representing a Country could say "I am Dalit"? She is an Indian. As rightly pointed out, why should the Indian Government not take up the case of the Domestic Help, who was poorly paid and ill-treated by the Diplomat? The Government should open up the case against DK related to "Adarsh" housing Society. Let such issues not impair upon the image of Indians abroad!

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  9. Death by Devyani: One more survey. The onyl good thing is that as the days fly by, we are getting all sides of this Dalit-Neta-Babu-Army-Navy-IFS-IAS-Politician (The Adarsh or typical Indian Mafia Club) Story!

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  10. In the choice between Devyani's and her father's version vs Preet's version, the author appears to be more inclined towards Preet's .. but more recent revelations about the mistaken information about the salary etc shows Preet's version, based on information he received from the ground, Marshalls etc , may not be entirely correct..

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  11. Local USA laws broken? Arvind...there are many such things happening there. There are thousands of h1b workers underpaid, Is the US govt then going to grant visas and tickets to their loved ones in India and fly them to USA? There is no doubt that DK is wrong but Preet Bharara has many important things to do. US state dept and IFS should have handled this better.

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  12. I agree Roshan P. We should take up the case of underpaid H1 workers in all right earnest. And yes, IFS/MEA looks to be India in this case and could have handled the situation better

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  13. Another point I make do you have any idea what cost of housing and food is in New York's Manhattan? Add that to what was paid in India to the maid and you exceed the minimum wage. That does not take into account the cash paid to the maid. Do you really believe (or are that naive to believe) that the maid and her family were victims of human trafficking? Get the facts down first.

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  14. Mr IB...waking up especially when one's wrong wont take him/her anywhere...will make him/her a laughing stock if at all for misplaced sense of patriotism (if that's what's meant!) ...
    yes, " a third world country" (quoting you) should and must conduct a strip search of a US diplomat for violation of their laws....
    We are conveniently forgetting whether anything wrong was done by the person concerned in this case. Making it any emotional will trivialise the issue further....
    I have asked in this article ...did ''we- as a nation" wake up to David Headley's complicity in Mumbai attack? Did we pressurize the US the same way to get him extradited? Where's our patriotism gone in that case? We have a habit of taking up soft cases esp where we feel we could be the next ....time for us to wake up !

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  15. Well written. I believe that you have developed an art to sieve through the frenzy, glimpses of which we saw in your piece on Malala.
    My contention in this very case is that US diplomats in India enjoy much more courtesies which are extended to their Indian counterparts. Having said that US in view of diplomatic traditions should have ensured that this issue should have been rather amicably dealt with rather than making it a case of US law prevailing above and all.
    I am sure within the ambit of law and keeping in view the Indo-US relations the issue could have been dealt and resolved. That is not to say that DK should have been allowed to go scot-free. But it also needs to be looked into that if the international diplomats are not in a position to pay the exorbitant salaries and have been flouting the rules through such side contracts then what stand should the US government take. I am sure diplomats of third world countries would have similar contracts with their helps. Arresting each one of them cannot be a solution. Also, the way the maid's family was deported to US was not in line with the diplomatic relations and totally unwarranted.
    Now on India's response. I totally agree with you that it was outrageous. The jingoism was not required. Your point on being mute on serious issues such as that of Headley is quite poignant and something that the mandarins of South Block need to think upon. As may agree with me, media bashing, is the most easy thing. Sometimes the reflection is more glaring and perhaps distorted but then the mirror cannot be blamed....as Behen Mayawati said "DK is prosecuted just because she is a Dalit."

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  16. There may be few grey area's around DK contract with SK and her connections and theories floating regarding Adarsh. But having said that, US could have treated an foreign country diplomat case more maturely. Besides they too did the same when there were more severe offences committed by their diplomats and supposedly diplomats like the Raymond Davis case in Pakistan.

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    1. Agreed. There is no doubt that Deyanee is wrong but Preet Bharara is also not right in fueling the situation as ever he did. India's unusual tough stand on the arrest of its diplomat Devyani Khobragade has forced the US to initiate an "inter-agency review" to look into the lapses that happened in the high-profile case that triggered an uproar in India and strained bilateral ties. In US, Department of Defense has also expressed its displeasure over the manner in which the entire issue was handled by officials.
      It is for us to stand up to the humiliation of our officers employed abroad and protest strongly, demand that justice be done and that equality be the order of the day so that they can say loudly, "I am proud to be an Indian".

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    2. I wish what you say is true! It's all what we wish to believe and interpret (US reaction ie as you have mentioned).
      As for "I am proud to be an Indian", you may like to refer "India Today" magazine January 6, 2013 issue...Sunanda K. Datta-Ray in ''Miaplaced frenzy over national hurt" has said (& I quote) " while hysterical TV anchors were whi[[ing up frenzy over Khobragade, not a voice inquired about the 52 unskilled labourers Singapore has summarily deported, the 28 facing criminal charges that if proved, would mean brutal real whipping and imprisonment, and the 200 others served with police warnings. ....The prospect of nearly 300 poor Indians- who invested everything in jobs in Singapore- being blackened for life, left India's chattering class as untouched as the plight of workers in the Gulf States of Malaysia. But the Americans dared to lay hands on a member of the hallowed IFS, whose retired IAS father seems to be as influential in Maharastra reacl estate allocation, as in South Block's top-level selection process".
      Basically, we, the "think-tank" would like to take up the cause of reach and influential (who we easily identify with or feel we could be the next) and feel it's a matter of "national pride" (totally misplaced in my humble opinion) while the poor and deserving continue to rot elsewhere......
      you decide

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  17. I've just installed iStripper, so I can have the sexiest virtual strippers on my desktop.

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