So the last few days my Facebook newsfeed and the Internet on the whole have been blazing with indignity regarding the arrest of an Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade by the U.S. Those who are little aware of the issue have also jumped on the bandwagon of how an Indian diplomat has been “strip-searched” and disrespected by the U.S officials after being asked for money by her maid/nanny, Sangeetha Richard.
Now let’s be honest here. The diplomat here is accused of two things- of not paying the maid as per the minimum wage law of the U.S and for forging fake VISA information for the maid. The fact that the maid was paid less than 3$ an hour, while the minimum wage in the U.S is 8$ an hour is what an American will find appalling. What the Indian finds appalling is that a diplomat, a high status individual, a representative of a country of billions like India was strip searched and treated like an “ordinary criminal”. The double standards in the latter argument is that the Indian media which has jumped on the bandwagon and highlighted the “strip-search” has downplayed the fact that Devyani broke a major labor law of the U.S. Of course had it been a U.S. diplomat who had broken an Indian law the Indian Govt. could probably not have the nerve to do something judicially about it. We treat the guests with respect, dignity and we expect the same from the West. Interestingly what is important to the U.S is that the little person, Sangeetha Richards has not received her minimum wage even while living in a society with a lifestyle that requires not 3$ an hour but 8$ an hour! Now why does India ignore the truth that one of their diplomats has broken a major law and only focuses on the way she was treated? Because one would expect a diplomat to be treated with more respect than a common criminal. The U.S. is certainly in the wrong if she was treated disrespectfully and if it’s true that her claim that the Indian Embassy had informed the U.S representatives that Richards had been complaint against. We might never know if Devyani was lying about the strip-search, but we do know that her salary, paid by the Indian government was not enough to pay her maid the U.S minimum wage! Now whose fault is that? Devyani’s or the Indian Government’s? Or the whole rupee-dollar divide? It’s evident that paying an Indian maid an Indian salary in the U.S just won’t do… That’s against the law and also against the interests of the maid who will only struggle to live in a lifestyle that demands more.
Is it wrong to have treated a diplomat the way the U.S. officials allegedly treated her? Yes. But is it wrong that the diplomat dodged a major labor law of the country she was living in? Absolutely, yes. The question is whether the Indian government is going to accept the diplomat’s mistake graciously and then demand an apology for the uncalled treatment she allegedly received. Because we certainly don’t want the West to think that its okay for us Indians to treat maids without respect while its NOT okay to treat a higher class diplomat without respect. No, we certainly don’t want to be accused of perpetuating slavery or being insensitive to the little guy. Before making it an “international” or an issue concerning diplomatic ties between nations, its perhaps more prudent to look into why and how a country’s judicial system affects another country’s diplomat. Evidently, ‘patriotism’ is bubbling over in India while the INDIAN maid who was wronged by an INDIAN diplomat is still being ignored. It’s the classic example of the accusing index finger while the other four fingers point back at you. Both sides are wrong here.