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My silence has been misconstrued: Devyani

Devyani Khobragade

Devyani Khobragade  

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Exactly one year after her controversial arrest in New York, diplomat Dr. Devyani Khobragade is appealing for help. While her case in the U.S. remains unresolved, the government has washed its hands off it. Ms. Khobragade faces an internal inquiry after it emerged that she had procured “dual passports” for her daughters, who are also U.S. citizens. In a telephone interview to diplomatic editor Suhasini Haidar, Ms. Khobragade defends her decision to ‘go public’.

One year after your arrest, where does your case stand? The government has announced it will no longer “engage” with the U.S. legal system on the case of alleged underpaying of your domestic help.

Well, the case still stands. Regardless of the government saying they will not “engage judicially” I do expect and hope that they will pursue the case, look for a resolution “politically”. I hope the government stands by the assurances they had given a year ago, because for me it means, I stand indicted, and have a warrant of arrest against me. Just because I have been silent, doesn’t mean the case has gone away.

You are, in fact, not silent today, and have given interviews including this one. What’s more, you have written another email to the IFS community, demanding that your case be included in the political agenda of Indo-U.S. dialogue. Why have you decided to come out and speak?

I won’t confirm any email sent by me. But yes, I have been speaking to the media, because I feel my silence has been misconstrued. I had refrained from speaking earlier as I didn’t want to add to the confusion. But instead my silence has been used to spread misinformation about me, reports that I have illegally applied for passports for my daughters, or on the Aadarsh case, or that I refused to return and all to portray me in a certain way.

There is an internal inquiry by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) against you that is inquiring how you acquired U.S. passports for your daughters, and why you didn’t inform the MEA when you applied for them.

I will not confirm there is any such enquiry. But I will respond to media reports that there is such an enquiry. Show me the rule that says I have to inform the ministry at a certain time about the passports. I didn’t voluntarily take the U.S. citizenship for my children. U.S. law mandated it. When they (my daughters) turn 18, they can choose between the two citizenships.

So when did you inform the MEA that you had applied for U.S. passports for them?

When it was necessary to, when they wanted to bring me back to India, and asked me to hand over my daughter’s passports (in January 2014).

Are you not worried that speaking to the media now will compound the problems and the enquiry against you?

Well I have a right to defend myself. I am not breaking any service rules. I am not giving any official secrets away. But if no one else is speaking up for me, I have to speak up for myself.

There is a suggestion that you are speaking now, and demanding a political settlement to your case because you are planning to resign from service, and in fact join politics yourself.

No, nothing like that. I chose the Foreign Service over all other options and I intend to stick it out.

And if you are asked to give up your children’s U.S. passports at the end of this enquiry, will you do so?

Well, so long as the government makes arrangements for my children to travel to the U.S., where their father and his family are based, why not. I have no love for the U.S. passports for them. On the contrary, it was my desire to keep the Indian passport for my children that has got me into all this trouble today.

One year after your arrest, do you regret any of your actions, do you feel that if you hadn’t spoken up then, things may be easier for you today?

Not at all. It’s been a tough one year, but it has made me stronger. I had to speak up after what was done to me.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 5:45:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/interview-with-dr-devyani-khobragade/article6689427.ece

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