Devyani Khobragade row: As it happened on Friday...

By Kamna Arora | Last Updated: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 22:52

Zee Media Bureau/Kamna Arora & Deepak Nagpal

9:00 pm: Bharara`s office refuses comment

The office of American prosecutor Preet Bharara, whose decision to charge Devyani Khobargade on visa fraud touched off a furor in India, today refused to comment on India`s strong response to his statement.

His office said "we do not have any comment on the Indian government`s response" to the remarks of Bharara, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York.

8:30 pm: ‘Maid’s diary says she was happy’

Claiming that Devyani Khobragade treated her maid Sangeeta Richard well, her sister Sharmishtha Khobragade has accused the diplomat`s former housekeeper of blackmail.

Releasing a page from Sangeeta`s diary, Devyani`s sister described how she was paid Rs 30,000, apart from other allowances on request.

Moreover, she (Sangeeta) had the freedom to go anywhere she wanted to go and that there was no work pressure as the entire family chipped in, she said.

8:00 pm: ‘Treat our diplomats as we treat yours’

Amid the row over the arrest and strip search of Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade, Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh today said the US should extend courtesies to Indian diplomats on par with what are enjoyed by their American counterparts in India.

"We expect our diplomat to be given exactly the same courtesies that we extend to American diplomats or diplomat of any other country," Singh said.

7:00 pm: Devyani Khobragade among Adarsh beneficiaries

Reports quoted the inquiry panel report on Adarsh Housing Society scam as saying that among those ineligible for flats was diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who is at the centre of a diplomatic row between the US and India.

6:30 pm: Dominos Pizza outlet attacked in Mumbai

Protesters ransacked a Dominos Pizza outlet in a Mumbai suburb on Friday, demanding a ban on US goods as officials from the two countries struggled to defuse a row over the arrest of Devyani Khobragade in New York.

Police and the Indian franchise of the US chain said no-one was hurt in the attack.

6:00 pm: BJP won`t recall invitation to US envoy

The BJP today said invitation extended to US Consul General in Mumbai for Narendra Modi`s Sunday rally will not be recalled following the outrage over the treatment meted out to Indian diplomat Deyani Khobragade which it termed as "unacceptable".

"We don`t recall an invitation after giving it. But we are sure that the US attitude is not befitting. We always treat our guests with respect but won`t compromise on the issue of national pride and national power," BJP general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

5:45 pm: ‘Dignity of diplomat foremost concern’

Emphasising that the safety and dignity of diplomat Devyani Khobragade in the US was the government`s top concern, Union Minister Preneet Kaur today said that India was firm in its stand that the cases against her should be withdrawn.

"Our foremost concern is the safety and security of Devyani... On that there is no compromise. What they (the US) are saying, whatever their responses are, we are looking into them and we`ll take further action accordingly," said Kaur, the Minister of State for External Affairs.

5:30 pm: US had sought Indian inquiry into maid`s allegations

Admitting to differences in interpretation of law, the US today said India had not acceded to demands for providing details of the inquiry into allegations made by diplomat Devyani Khobragade`s domestic maid or make her available for discussing charges.

It also said that the two governments have been in discussions since last July after the maid, Sangita Richard, left the diplomat`s home without informing her and her attorney complained to the State Department raising charges of visa fraud and other issues.

State Department spokesperson Marie Harf denied charges that they were not in touch with Indian authorities.

The Indian Embassy, however, maintained that the only letter it had received was on September 4 in which the Indian government was informed about the allegations of the maid and asked to investigate the case.

The Indian Embassy here has alleged that various agencies of the US Government--New York Police Department, State Department and the US Embassy in new Delhi--did not respond to any of its communications with regard to Richard.

5:00 pm: India hopeful of solution

India today said entire gamut of Indo-US ties needs to be kept in mind by both sides while dealing with the case against its diplomat Devyani Khobragade and hoped that the matter will be resolved despite US refusing to accept its demand of withdrawing charges against her.

Terming as "valuable" the bilateral ties, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said India was conscious of this while dealing with the "hurtful" and "unacceptable" treatment meted out to its diplomat in New York.

"The only question is what you do when something happens that is irksome, that is hurtful, that is unacceptable. We are going to find a solution. And I hope that we will find a solution," he said.

4:30 pm: ‘Maid`s salary doesn`t include cash, meals, housing’

Payments made to the domestic maid of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in cash or to Indian bank accounts and provision of service accommodation and meals as part of salary are grounds that may not be in compliance with US notifications in this regard.

Through a notification dated April 20, 2012, sent to all foreign missions in the US, including that of India, the State Department specifically ruled that deductions from wages will not be allowed for domestic workers.

The State Department reiterated this again through another notification on September 24, 2013 in which it determined that "providing meals and housing to domestic workers is for the benefit of the employer" and thus advised foreign missions that it is not permissible for the employer to withhold from domestic workers` wages any amount for meals and housing.

By doing so, the State Department made changes in its previous notification of March 22, 2011, in which it had determined that "it would be reasonable" for employers of domestic workers to deduct "no more than 20 percent" of wages for a minimum of three daily meals. - PTI

3:00 pm: India, US will come to logical conclusion, says Khurshid

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said he is in touch with his US counterpart and would come to "a logical conclusion" over Devyani`s arrest.

"My lead duty and entitlement is to be in conversation with my counterpart John Kerry, the US secretary of state. Lower than that there is also contact with the State Department and the foreign secretary," Khurshid told reporters.

"I do believe that so long we are in conversation and do meaningful conversation, we will get our conversation to logical conclusion and there is an outcome one way or the other."

2:07 pm: RPI calls for boycott of American restaurants

Republican Party of India (Athawale group) attacked American food chain Dominos at Bandra in protest of Devyani`s arrest.Later, it called for boycott of all American restaurants.

2:04 pm: `India`s foremost concern is Devyani`s safety`

Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur said India has not diluted its stand and the country`s foremost concern is safety of Devyani.

2:00 pm: Manish Tewari on Devyani`s case

Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari described the US` treatment meted out to Devyani as `atrocious`, demanding Washington`s apology, which is India`s "legitimate expectation".

1:55 pm: Have done everything we could, says Khurshid

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said his government is discussing Khobragade`s case with the US. He added that the Centre has done what it could in the case and steps were taken to maintain dignity of the diplomat. "We hope we will get the solution," said Khurshid.

1:50 pm: Protests continue outside US consulate in Hyderabad

Protests continued near the US consulate in Hyderabad for the second consecutive day against the ill-treatment meted out by the US authorities to Khobragade.

Tension prevailed and vehicular traffic was disrupted in the busy Begumpet area as activists of the main opposition Telugu Desam Party were stopped by police from marching towards the consulate.

Scores of TDP activists, including former minister T Srinivas Yadav, were arrested by police.

The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad also staged a protest near the consulate, condemning the humiliation meted out to the Indian diplomat.

1:43 pm: We were frightened, says Richard`s family

The family of Sangeeta Richard, the former maid of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, has alleged that they were frightened on several occasions as demands were made to them to bring the domestic worker back to India.

A report in the New York Times quoted a person close to Richard`s family as describing several episodes that frightened her family members.

In one case, Richard`s husband Philip, while bicycling with one of his children, was confronted by a man with a gun who demanded that his wife return home, the report said.

Richard`s husband said he had been called more than once by Khobragade`s father, who asked him to make his wife return to India, the person said.

1:22 pm: Shinde on FIR against Sangeeta Richard

Law will take its own course, said Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on FIR filed with the Delhi Police against Indian diplomat`s maid Sangeeta Richard.

12:20 pm: India must insist that charges against Devyani be dropped, says Sinha

BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said India must insist that charges against Devyani be dropped and US must apologise. There are many people in India who are living against the law and don`t deserve the diplomatic status, they must be arrested, added Sinha.

12:01 pm: BJP on Devyani case

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said India must take a strong route and should not let a prosecutor govern the foreign policy.

11:20 am: Kamal Nath says US must apologise

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath reiterated Indian government’s stand, said US must apologise and drop charges against Devyani.

"No formalities will be acceptable to us. They (US) should tender a clear apology. We will not accept this conduct against India under any circumstances. The US has to understand that the world has changed, times have changed and India has changed," Kamal Nath said.

10:50 am: `Sangeeta Richard, real victim in Indian diplomat controversy`

The Indian housekeeper worked from morning until late at night, seven days a week, for less than USD 3 an hour taking care of the two children of a diplomat. Unable to get a better deal, she made sure the children were cared for one day and walked out, a news agency quoted her lawyer as saying on Thursday.

From that moment on, Sangeeta Richard relied on the kindness of strangers within the Indian community in New York City, and even was cared for at one point by a Sikh temple. She eventually connected with the nonprofit Safe Horizon, which has an anti-trafficking program.

"She was basically just trying to find her way. She was left with the clothes on her back, with very little money," attorney Dana Sussman said.

7:25 pm: US has no plans to drop charges against Khobragade

The United States has ruled out acceding to either of the two Indian demands - withdrawal of charges against its diplomat Devyani Khobragade, and an apology for alleged mistreatment, after her arrest in New York last week.

"We take these allegations very seriously. We`re not in any way walking back from those allegations or the charges. Again, this is really a law enforcement issue," State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said.

"No," she said when asked if Khobragade would go "scot free" and US courts would be asked to drop the charges.

Refuting that charges against the diplomat could be dropped, she said:"I don`t know the details of the complaint, and I don`t know if even withdrawing the complaint, which I`m not saying anybody is considering would, in fact, drop the charge. That`s not something that`s even being considered."

"We certainly take these types of allegations very seriously though. It`s not a decision for us whether to prosecute or not," Harf said.

12:25 pm: Nancy Powell meets MEA officials

US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell meets Ministry of External Affairs officials as diplomatic row continues over Devyani Khobragade`s arrest.

12:06 am: US talks to India

Concerned over the anger in India at the humiliating treatment meted out to Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, top US officials engaged in talks with Indian diplomats to find a resolution to the row.

Close on the heels of US Secretary of State John Kerry calling up National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon to express regret over the mess-up, US Undersecretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman on Thursday called up Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh during which they discussed specific steps to resolve the situation.

The envoy`s father, Uttam Khobragade, a former Maharashtra bureaucrat, has threatened to launch a hunger strike if his daughter is denied justice in the US.

"I will wait for the developments and go to New Delhi next week. I shall try to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. But if my daughter does not get justice, I plan to launch a hunger strike," Khobragade told a news agency.

Sherman called up Singh to discuss specific steps during which the statement by Manhattan`s India-born US attorney Preet Bharara came up, defending his department`s action against Khobragade.

It was learnt that Sherman distanced herself from Bharara`s statement.



First Published: Friday, December 20, 2013 - 09:26

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