Valdosta Daily Times

National, International News

December 21, 2013

India demands apology for diplomat’s arrest

NEW DELHI — India’s information minister lashed out at the United States on Friday and demanded an apology for the treatment of a diplomat who was arrested in New York, saying America cannot behave “atrociously” and get away with it.

The Dec. 13 arrest and strip-search of Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York, has sparked a diplomatic storm between the United States and India. U.S. prosecutors say Khobragade lied on a visa form about how much she paid her housekeeper and actually paid her around $3 per hour. The diplomat has pleaded not guilty.

India has said the strip-search was degrading and unnecessary. The U.S. Marshals service said it is standard procedure. But in India, such treatment for an educated, middle-class woman is almost unimaginable.

“The fact is that American authorities have behaved atrociously with an Indian diplomat, and obviously America has to make good for its actions,” Information Minister Manish Tewari told reporters. “I think it’s a legitimate expectation that if they have erred — and they have erred grievously in this matter — they should come forth and apologize.”

The case has become major news in India, touching on issues of class, status and the rights of domestic workers. The two sides of the case have offered starkly different accounts of what happened. Khobragade says she’s being targeted by a vindictive housekeeper. The housekeeper, meanwhile, says she was overworked and underpaid and needed to escape.

About two dozen protesters gathered outside the Consulate General of India in New York in support of the housekeeper, carrying signs saying “Justice for domestic workers: hold diplomats accountable” and “Overworked, underpaid.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed regret over the incident. State Department officials have declined to provide details about the case, citing law enforcement restrictions that prevent them from discussing it. They say they are still trying to assess what occurred.

But U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said earlier this week that Khobragade was treated well, and questioned why there was more sympathy in India for the diplomat than the housekeeper.

Khobragade is accused of submitting false documents to obtain a work visa for the housekeeper. According to prosecutors, she claimed she paid the woman $4,500 a month, but actually paid her around $3 per hour. She could face a maximum sentence of 10 years for visa fraud and five years for making a false declaration if convicted.

On Friday, the diplomat’s father, Uttam, said his daughter treated the housekeeper, Sangeeta Richard, like a member of the family. He said Richard had Sundays off and was free to attend church and visit her friends.

He filed a lawsuit in India earlier this year on his daughter’s behalf, saying Richard was wrongly accusing his daughter of treating her like a slave.

But Richard’s lawyer said Thursday that the housekeeper worked from morning until late at night, seven days week, for less than $3 an hour. Unable to get better pay, she made sure Khobragade’s two children were cared for one day and walked out, lawyer Dana Sussman said.

From that moment on, Sussman said, Richard relied on the kindness of strangers within the Indian community in New York City, and even was looked after at one point by a Sikh temple. She eventually connected with the nonprofit group Safe Horizon, which has an anti-trafficking program.

“She was basically just trying to find her way. She was left with the clothes on her back, with very little money,” Sussman said.

Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has demanded the charges be dropped. He said Richard had threatened over the summer to go to the police unless Khobragade arranged a new passport for her, along with a work visa and a large sum of money.

Khurshid did not say how much money Richard sought. But two top Indian officials said the housekeeper asked for $10,000 in the presence of an immigration lawyer and two other witnesses. Both officials have close knowledge of the case, but spoke on condition that their names not be published because of the sensitivity of the case.

Sussman said the claims are inaccurate. “There was no extortion or anything along those lines,” she said. “She essentially worked very long hours, was isolated within the home, and attempted to ask for more time off, ask for more reasonable hours, but those attempts to resolve the issues were unsuccessful.”

Khurshid said India does not want to sour relations, but would insist on the return of its diplomat. “We are keen that no damage of an irreversible nature should happen to our relationship,” he said.

Khobragade has said she had full diplomatic immunity. U.S. officials say her immunity is limited to acts performed in the exercise of consular functions.

She was transferred to India’s U.N. mission this week. The mission’s first secretary, Devesh Uttam, said in an email Friday that Khobragade will be a counsellor there and the “necessary letter/documents have been submitted to the U.N. and they are being processed.”

A spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general’s office, Farhan Haq, said the U.N. is weighing the request.

Uttam said Khobragade will remain in the U.S.

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Stowaway teen forces review of airport security

    A 15-year-old boy found his way onto an airport’s tarmac and climbed into a jetliner’s wheel well, then flew for five freezing hours to Hawaii — a misadventure that forced authorities to take a hard look at the security system that protects the nation’s airline fleet.

    April 22, 2014

  • South Korea Ship Sink_Rich copy.jpg Death count in ferry sinking tops 100

    One by one, coast guard officers carried the newly arrived bodies covered in white sheets from a boat to a tent on the dock of this island, the first step in identifying a sharply rising number of corpses from a South Korean ferry that sank nearly a week ago.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP520422034 copy.jpg Today in History for Tuesday, April 22, 2014

    Today is Tuesday, April 22, the 112th day of 2014. There are 253 days left in the year.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Immigration _Rich copy.jpg DHS secretary re-evaluating deportation priorities

    Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Wednesday he’s re-evaluating the Obama administration’s deportation priorities to make certain they’re focused on national security, public safety and border security, amid growing pressure from the Latino community and President Barack Obama’s fellow Democrats. 

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rethinking Pot 420_Rich copy.jpg Public smoke-out marks pot holiday in Colorado

    Tens of thousands of revelers raised joints, pipes and vaporizer devices to the sky Sunday at a central Denver park in a defiant toast to the April 20 pot holiday, a once-underground celebration that stepped into the mainstream in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Submarine Sleep Sched_Rich copy.jpg Navy OKs changes for submariners’ sleep schedules

    With no sunlight to set day apart from night on a submarine, the U.S. Navy for decades has staggered sailors’ working hours on schedules with little resemblance to life above the ocean’s surface.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • South Korea Ship Sink_Rich copy.jpg Grim work for families as more bodies discovered

    There are no names listed as relatives huddle around signboards to identify bodies from a sunken ferry. Just the slimmest of clues about mostly young lives now lost. Many favored hoodies and track pants. One girl painted her fingernails red and toenails black. Another had braces on her teeth.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP600421099 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, April 21, 2014

    Today is Monday, April 21, the 111th day of 2014. There are 254 days left in the year.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Space Robot_Rich copy.jpg NASA’s Robonaut finally getting legs

    Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Nepal Everest Avalanc_Rich copy.jpg Another body pulled from snow in avalanche

    Search teams recovered a 13th body Saturday from the snow and ice covering a dangerous climbing pass on Mount Everest, where an avalanche a day earlier swept over a group of Sherpa guides in the deadliest disaster on the world’s highest peak.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
Other
     View Results