Devyani episode deplorable, says Manmohan

The arrest and ill-treatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in the U.S. figured prominently in Parliament on Wednesday. Outside the House Prime Minister Manmohan Singh termed the episode “deplorable.”

Dr. Singh was responding to queries after an impromptu discussion in both Houses, during which members expressed outrage at the handcuffing and strip-searching of Ms. Khobragade in New York after she was charged with visa fraud.

The government told Parliament that India would assert itself effectively and ensure that the diplomat’s dignity was restored. There was also a demand to pass a resolution against the U.S. on the issue.

Making a statement in both Houses, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the Deputy Consul General was trapped in a “conspiracy.” “She is innocent. It is not the illegality that she is accused of, but the illegality she refused to oblige,” he said.

Terming the action by the U.S. government unwarranted, the Minister said it was a matter of the country’s prestige and honour, as MPs, cutting across party lines, demanded strong retaliatory action by India.

“We will bring back the diplomat and restore her dignity. If I fail to do it, I will not return to this House,” Mr. Khurshid told the Rajya Sabha. “First and foremost, our effort is to bring her out of this situation and then we will talk to the U.S. government.”

Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said what happened to Ms. Khobragade was in utter violation of the immunity granted to diplomats under various conventions and the U.S. rules. Things came to such a pass not because the U.S. was a big power, but because India had allowed it to be taken for granted.

Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati said the government had delayed intervention only because the diplomat happened to be from a Scheduled Caste.

The DMK’s Kanimozhi said one could not shut one’s eyes to the fact that the victim belonged to the SC and such action across the ocean would prove detrimental in the uplift of the community. Pointing out that SC and ST girls had to struggle to come up in life, Ms. Kanimozhi said Ms. Khobragade’s was an example to the community but if she was insulted it would not only instil fear in the community back home but also affect its growth.

Sitaram Yechury of the CPI(M) described the incident as an outrage against India’s sovereignty.

In the Lok Sabha, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav demanded that the House pass a resolution condemning the U.S. action. He alleged that the government was “shaking with fear” of the U.S. and this led to an increase in such cases from the time when the former Defence Minister, George Fernandes, was searched at a U.S. airport.

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