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Political Play
Ratan Sharda
Strange case of Devyani Khobragade and response of Human Rights activists 18 December, 2013
Arrest of Indian deputy consul general, Dr. Devyani Khobragade, had moved out of headlines when I wrote this piece but I see a sudden show of firm spine by the Indian government today morning that has brought it back on the front pages just the article was sent for publication. It is heartening to see this new found sense of self pride. However, I would like to keep my focus on how the various Human Rights activists have sidelined the issue.
A ToI story dated 17th December notes that Ms Khobragade was strip-searched and confined with drug addicts after her detention in a visa fraud case. She was also subjected to DNA swabbing. All this was done despite the fact that she had certain diplomatic immunity and her ‘crime’ was not that ‘grave’. It was clear that she wouldn’t be escaping from US as she was not a criminal.

ToI notes further that, as a consular officer Ms Khobragade had certain privileges - even if she did not have diplomatic immunity - which New Delhi believes were denied to her. She had limited immunity as a consular officer and could be arrested only if her crime was grave. The government is backing Ms Khobragade's lawyer's contention that if her crime was indeed grave, why she was released on bail just two hours after her arrest.

There was some hue and cry in Indian media, some customary statements by politicians, some weak attempts at belligerence by the Indian government; but silence of professional human rights activists was deafening, to say the least.  Strange that arrest of a Dalit, Devyani Khobragade in US did not result even in a whimper of a protest from our professional Human Rights activists! It was a clear case of the racist mindset of US officials. Imagine the reaction of these 'activists' if such a treatment to a Dalit, that too such a leading successful Dalit were meted out in India!

Is it because most of these professional rights activists are financed by US based big budget charity foundations? A little diligent search on the net will tell us how many of our activists have been living off grants provided by US based and Europe based funds, specially those who fight for Human Rights, Green causes etc.

The Kudankulam power plant agitations are fresh in the minds of the  people.  People would also remember the case of Arvind Kejriwal’s NGO getting funds from Ford Foundation for years. We keep wondering how these TV based, 5 star seminar circuit star activists live such comfortable life fighting for poor and dispossessed people.

We witness these people fighting for people like Binayak Sen who supports Naxalites, shed tears for transgenders’ rights but keeping quiet when rights of Hindus in Kashmir, Pakistan and Bangladesh are trampled upon. They are stone deaf to tribulations of a Tasleema Nasreen hounded by extremist Islamists; they avert their eyes to persecution of minority Shias, Gujjars and Buddhists in J&K suffering at the hands of majority militant Sunnis.

True, we see them raising their voices for Dalits, especially if they suffer at the hands of Hindus. So, it is all the more painful to see them vanish from public space now when a Dalit, a Dalit woman, an accomplished young Dalit woman, an accomplished  young Dalit woman with diplomatic privileges is treated in such an insulting manner by US, the proverbial red rag to all the ‘progressive’ human rights activists.

Is it because they live off US based foundations? Is it because she was mistreated by members of Christian society not Hindu society? I do not wish to sound casteist or communal or racist. But, unfortunately, such doubts come to mind when we witness their behaviour, therefore I am raising this provocative question and hope somebody provides honest answers.

Or is it that they lose voice because this pain is inflicted to this unfortunate lady by a powerful nation? Is it because they are afraid of getting an immediate black mark on their records with US intelligence and spoil their visa prospects for future junkets if they speak up?  

I don’t really think so, the US is too powerful a nation to worry about such criticism, that too from weak kneed activists of a country that is perceived as weak. The US government lets even its own white supremacists speak out even when it has a black president now.  It proves that the liberty in the US is genuine, in spite of racism lurking just under the sophisticated surface. But, that is true of us Indians too, so I can’t really point a finger at people of the US on this point.

I think, the reason behind this sickening inactivity is that all this human rights activism is more of a sham, a glamorous profession giving these activists power and pelf, and patronage from pseudo-secular political establishment. They take up only fashionable causes which are supported by left leaning media, western world and  not the real cases of human rights violation.

India needs a genuine movement for securing human rights and  not sham movements that feed on problems of the  society and earn their livings from foundations that have a different agenda. I do hope Devyani Khobragade gets full support from Indian government and not a wimpy protest for her mistreatment.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
About The Author
Ratan Sharda is a citizen journalist. He has authored books like 'Secrets of RSS'. A marketing consultant by profession, Mr. Sharda is a keen observer of the country's political scenario.
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Devyani is not as innocent as she appears to be. According to Times of India, anger and bitterness is still running high in the Indian Foreign Service, which closed ranks behind its young colleague who continues to face charges of visa fraud and misrepresentation in connection with bringing a housekeeper to the United States, because admission of culpability will put in dock many Indian diplomats and officials who use a model similar to what Khobragade did to hire what in MEA parlance are called IBDAs ( India-based domestic assistants) who work as housekeepers, nannies, cooks etc on postings abroad. At the heart of the dispute now is who gets to decide fair wages for the IBDAs — the host country or the home country — and what constitutes fair wages, particularly when the IBDAs are taken abroad on an official passport at government expense, stay in-house with the officials, and receive perks such as medical care, home leave etc. Washington insists that the wages should meet US legal requirements for minimum wages ($9.75 an hour in New York), the perks cannot be monetized, and that Devyani Khobragade reneged on paying minimum wages that after committing to it in the visa application of her IBDA Sangeeta Richard. Also at stake is the primacy of the respective country's legal and judicial system, a debate that Bharara inflamed with his statement that New Delhi saw as disrespectful of its due process. In my opinion, it is not Indian laws that would operate in USA but the laws of that country. Therefore, Devyani is guilty of underpaying her maid.
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