Now that Devyani Khobragade is back in India and Sangeeta Richards is comfortably placed in the United States along with her husband, should we say the matter is over? Devyani won’t be able to go to the States without having to face the court, with an NRI, Preet Bharara, serving as a prosecutor. And Sangeeta Richards won’t be able to return to India unless she wants also to face an Indian court. Happily the majority of the Indian media has supported Devyani and the Indian stands as many of the editorials and commentators have shown.
The Economic Times ( December 20) recalled how former President Abdul Kalam, ex-Defence Minister George Fernandes, senior diplomats Meera Sanyal and Hardeep Puri had been in the past ill-treated.
The Asian Age (December 15) described US conduct as “arrogant, uncivil and undiplomatic”. The paper sharply pointed out that Devyani’s likely arrest took place when India’s foreign Secretary was visiting Washington and she was not told about this! “Perhaps” said the paper, “US laws need to change.
The Sentinel (December 21) pointed out just a week before Devyani was arrested 49 Russians diplomats had been charged with carrying out a medical insurance fraud worth 1.5 million dollars but eleven of them were continuing to work at the Russian Consulate in New York. According to The Sentinel what the US did was “despicable”.
The Times of India’s (December18) view was the harsh treatment given to Devyani violated the Vienna Convention.
The Hindu (December 19) was highly sceptical. It said “Never known for taking on the US on substantive policy issues, the Government’s unusually aggressive reactions – and those of political parties too – on half of a diplomat smell of political considerations ahead of an election.”
Hindustan Times (December 20) said “the message must be clear that while India does not want to be unduly aggressive, it cannot be pushed around.”
The DNA (January 15 , 2014) drew attention to the plight of domestic workers right in India itself saying the Domestic Welfare and Social Security Act 2010 drafted by the National Commission for women is still languishing in the Parliament which is a clear sign of the Government’s inability to push through an important piece of legislation that would significantly improve the lot of million. The paper further pointed out that “another Bill to end the corrupt practices that placement agencies supplying domestic workers are accused of is also lying in cold storage”.
Articles in several papers by important commentators too need notice. Thus, writing in Hindustan Times George Thomas, from the National Law School, Bengaluru noted that “it is time the US sheds its double standards pointing out how the United States behaved in the case of Raymond Davis, a CIA operative who had shot and killed two Pakistanis and whose release by the Pakistan Government was demanded by the US Government. The US said Thomas threatened to freeze monetary assistance to Pakistan if Davis was not released. Of course, he was released.
An American murderer can get away from Pakistan easily. An Indian diplomat under false charges – one charge that Devyani was guilty of ‘human trafficking’ was quickly dropped – is terrorised, but an American guilty of murder is asked to be relased in Pakistan unconditionally.
In a Sunday interview to Asian Age (December 22) a former Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal said that “for a wage dispute you do not arrest a diplomat from a friendly country and administer repugnant treatment. Sibal strongly supported the Indian Government stand additionally saying that “the US has deeply antagonised the entire Indian Foreign Service and this will have a lasting impact on Indo-US ties”.
Sibal raised another important point. He said: “This time the State Department and New York Police were kept informed of developments and their help was sought to repatriate the maid back to India. Where is the case of human trafficking when we were seeking the maid’s return to foil her plans to settle in the US permanently.”
The New Indian Express (January 12) was even more damning. In his regular column, Prabhu Chawla said that “the Devyani episode has proved that America preaches democracy and peace but practises dictatorship and arbitrariness with anyone questioning their arbitrariness and arrogance being treated as an enemy.” The matter is not over. All these earliest comments are recalled to state that it would be wrong to presume that the matter is over. Only time will tell what would happen, say, in the next two months.