Officials in India are outraged over the arrest and alleged cavity and strip search of a female diplomat in the U.S., retaliating by removing concrete barricades in front of the American embassy in New Delhi, snubbing a U.S. Congressional delegation — and one calling for the prosecution of gay companions of U.S. diplomats in India.
“So, why doesn’t the Government of India go ahead and arrest all of them!” said Yashwant Sinha, leader of India’s largest opposition party. “Put them behind bars, prosecute them in this country and punish them?”
India’s Supreme Court last week criminalized consensual sex among gay adults, the New York Daily News reported.
Tempers erupted after India’s deputy consul Devyani Khobragade, 39, was arrested in the street in front of her daughter’s Manhattan school last Thursday; Khobragade claims she was later subjected to repeated cavity and strip searches, the Associated Press reported.
The diplomat was federally charged for falsely claiming on her housekeeper’s visa application that she was paying her more than the $3.31 per hour she was accused of giving her, the Daily News reported.
In an email to her foreign service colleagues in India, Khobragade said she “broke down many times” and faced “repeated handcuffing, stripping and cavity searches,” the AP reported. An Indian official with direct knowledge of the case confirmed the email was authentic.
She was released on $250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court, The Economic Times reported.
“The way she was arrested after being handcuffed, kept with drug addicts and strip-searched in the police station, that is condemnable and regrettable and in clear violation of conventions,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, another opposition-party leader in India.
“It is despicable and barbaric,” added India National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf told reporters Tuesday at a daily news conference in Washington that “diplomatic security, which is under the State Department purview, followed standard procedures during her arrest,” the Times reported.
In apparent retaliation, the Indian government halted all import clearances to the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, including liquor, and withdrew all airport passes for U.S. diplomats, the Press Trust of India news agency reported, according to The National Post.
In addition, the Indian government is ready to downgrade U.S. diplomats’ privileges and demand information about how much they pay their Indian household staff, Press Trust added.
Regarding the concrete barrier removal, a station house officer said they “were obstructing traffic on the road,” the National Post added. The officer refused to say who had given the orders.
Meanwhile, Khobragade’s lawyer, Daniel Arshack, said his client will invoke diplomatic immunity from prosecution. “This entire prosecution represents a significant error in judgment and an embarrassing failure of U.S. international protocol,” Arshack added, according to the Daily News.
Here’s a report via the Chicago Tribune: