Saudi diplomat flies back, activists upset

Activists of All India Democratic Women's Association protest outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in New Delhi. File photo  

Majed Hassan Ashoor, the Saudi Arabian diplomat >accused of sexual assault on two Nepali maids has exited India, the External Affairs Ministry said in a press statement late on Wednesday evening. With his departure, the Ministry may have escaped a tough diplomatic imbroglio.

Ashoor’s silent departure appears to be part of a diplomatic bargain struck between India and Saudi Arabia after the high-level intervention of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. Earlier, the Ministry was accused of going soft on the case, which the former Foreign Secretary Maharaj Krishna Rasgotra said was as a sign of the sensitive issues involved in this case.

Mr. Rasgotra said the Saudis were “frightfully important to India at the moment due to the global circumstances and the Saudi diplomat’s departure seems like a solution arrived at through mutual consultation”.

However, activists are not satisfied because they believe that full justice has not been served to the maids.

“The External Affairs Ministry has allowed the Nepali maids to return home where they were further humiliated as their families have disowned them. India should not have deserted the Nepali maids who have been distanced from the investigating authorities in India due to the stealthy and hurried repatriation,” said Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap International.

However, Ms. Gupta says, repatriation of the victims has the potential of crippling the investigation in this case. Victim protection, Ms. Gupta says, should have been India’s priority.

Ashoor’s departure will not probably affect the investigation by the police in Nepal in Kathmandu. Nepali sources told The Hindu that they were investigating trafficking of Nepali women via Indian metros when the case involving the Saudi diplomat in Gurgaon came up.

“We have arrested a number of individuals connected to this case in Kathmandu in the last one week. Those arrested are helping us understand the modus operandi of the traffickers who masqueraded as maid recruitment agents,” said Rajendra Man Shrestha, the police representative in the Nepal Embassy.

With the Nepal Police launching an investigation into the trafficking of women through Indian metros, Rajendra Man Shrestha, the police representative in the Nepal Embassy, says the focus right now is to find out more about an elusive character named Anwar who is a kingpin. “There are conflicting reports about Anwar. Some say he is based in India and some suggest that he is back in Nepal. Even the victims have not been able to provide a detailed sketch of Anwar. But we are confident of capturing him,” Mr. Shreshta told The Hindu here on Wednesday.

The investigation in Nepal is aimed at helping the Indian part of the legal process, but Ruchira Gupta, activists from Apne Aap International, believes that the investigation will not be able to reach its logical conclusion without the presence of the two maids in India. She suggests that India offer victim protection package, including financial compensation, to the maids and ensure their presence here for a satisfying conclusion of the case.

That apart, India should build a stronger protection mechanism for such maids to prevent recurrence of similar cases involving trafficked women and minors.

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Printable version | Sep 18, 2021 3:12:11 PM |

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