Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade strip-searched, made to stand with sex workers

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 17, 2013 14:18 hrs

New Delhi: India's Deputy Consul General in New York Devyani Khobragade was stripped in custody and made to stand with drug addicts and sex workers by the New York Police, say sources.

The 39-year-old senior Indian diplomat, Khobragade, was arrested in New York on December 13 for alleged visa fraud and exploiting her babysitter cum housekeeper.

The 1999-batch Indian Foreign Service officer was taken into custody, while she was dropping off her daughter to school. She was later released after furnishing a bond of 250,000 USD.

The US police charged her with presenting false documents and visa fraud, which has maximum sentence of five and ten years of imprisonment respectively.

"We are shocked and appalled at what the US did. India is forcefully taking up with the US the treatment of the arrested diplomat. It is not acceptable," the foreign ministry had said.

In a major snub, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar cancelled her meeting with a senior US Congressional delegation in New Delhi last week as a mark of protest against the treatment meted out to Khobragade.

Meira Kumar, herself an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer who quit the service before joining politics, cancelled the meeting as she felt it was not "appropriate" to meet the Parliamentarians of the US, who has badly treated one of India's senior diplomats, according to sources.

Significantly, National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, who also had a scheduled meeting with the five-member US team, did not meet them, apparently for the same reason.

After India took up the matter with the US Ambassador in New Delhi, the State Department said it was handling the issue.

“We are handling this incident through law enforcement channels. We have a long-standing partnership with India, and we expect that partnership will continue,” a US State Department spokesperson told PTI.

The US has expressed hope that the diplomatic row over the arrest will not affect bilateral ties with India.

Devyani Khobragade's arrest: India asks US diplomats to return ID cards

Taking a strong stand over the public arrest, strip search and ill-treatment meted out to Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade by the New York police, India on Tuesday asked the US diplomats posted in India to turn in their ID cards that gives them diplomatic benefits.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, meanwhile, refused to meet a visiting US congressional delegation to show India's displeasure over the treatment meted out to Devyani Khobragade.

"Refused to meet the visiting USA delegation in solidarity with our nation, protesting ill-treatment meted to our lady diplomat in USA," tweeted Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, however, met the delegation and conveyed India's discontent to them.

India talks tough, seeks unconditional apology from US

India Tuesday sought "unconditional apology" from the US over the arrest and the purported strip search of its ranking diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York and also took a slew of steps to pare down the privileges of American diplomats in an apparent retaliatory measure.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the US should tender "unconditional apology" to India over the public humiliation of its diplomat, and that "more steps need to be taken to awaken the US that it's a changed world."

The union minister's tough message came after India asked US diplomats in consulates across the country to surrender their Diplomatic Identity Cards issued to them and their families by the Indian government.

India has also withdrawn all airport passes for consulates and import clearances for the embassy. This helped them to import liquor without paying airport fees.

Knowledgeable sources said Delhi Police have also been asked to remove security barricades outside the US embassy. The barricades for years restricted public movement around the embassy and normal vehicular traffic was particularly barred from the slip road in front of the embassy and the visa office at the back of the chancery.

India is also seeking details like salaries paid to Indian staff employed in the US consulates, including those working as domestic helps with the families of American officials because there is suspicion that Indian staff at the US embassy were discriminated against.

(With agency inputs)

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