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Top Indian politicians snub US delegation over diplomat arrest Diplomat’s father says NY arrest ‘barbaric’

NEW DELHI, Dec 17, (Agencies): Top Indian politicians said Tuesday they snubbed a visiting US Congressional delegation over the arrest of a senior diplomat in New York as outrage grows in India over the “humiliating” incident. India’s opposition candidate for prime minister, Narendra Modi, said he had “refused” to meet with the US visitors over the arrest last week of deputy consul general Devyani Khobragade over visa fraud allegations. “Refused to meet the visiting USA delegation in solidarity with our nation, protesting ill-treatment meted to our lady diplomat in USA,” Modi said in a tweet.

The speaker of India’s lower house of parliament also called off a meeting with the US group scheduled for Monday, her office said, over Khobragade’s arrest while she was dropping her children at school. “Four US Congressmen visiting India had an appointment with the speaker Meira Kumar but we cancelled it on Monday morning on her directions,” senior parliamentary official US Saxena told AFP. He said “the reason for cancellation of this meeting was the treatment meted out to our diplomat in New York”.

The snubs came after India last week summoned the US ambassador to protest at the arrest, with a foreign ministry official saying then India was “shocked and appalled” at the US handling of the incident. Anger over the incident has been mounting in the Indian press with front-page reports Tuesday claiming Khobragade had been “strip-searched and confined with drug addicts” after her arrest. Reports have said that the New York-based Khobragade was arrested and handcuffed in public for allegedly lying on the US visa application for an Indian national who worked for her as a domestic help.

India’s deputy consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, was charged last week with making false statements and visa fraud on an application for her housekeeper to work for her in the United States. Prosecutors in New York say that Khobragade, 39, claimed she paid her Indian maid $4,500 per month but actually paid her below the US minimum wage. She has pleaded not guilty and was freed on $250,000 bail. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told journalists Tuesday that the diplomat was subject to “a form of indignity (that) is for us completely unacceptable.” Khobragade was arrested and handcuffed Thursday as she dropped off her daughter at school, then strip-searched and kept in a cell with drug addicts before posting bail, Indian officials said. Khobragade’s father, Uttam Khobragade, told the TimesNow TV news channel Tuesday that his daughter is not a criminal and her treatment was “barbaric.” Khobragade’s lawyer told a magistrate last week that his client would challenge the arrest on grounds of diplomatic immunity. Indian officials said the government was considering steps to quickly resolve the matter.

US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday that standard procedures were followed during Khobragade’s arrest. The case touches on a string of issues that strike deeply in India, where the fear of public humiliation resonates strongly. For an educated middle-class woman to face public arrest and a strip search is almost unimaginable except for the most brutal crimes. The treatment and pay of household staff, meanwhile, is largely seen as a family issue, off-limits to interference by authorities.

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