Row over X-mas tree "provoked" diplomat: Indian mission

The Indian High Commission has issued a blow-by-blow account on the alleged wife-bashing by its senior diplomat Anil Verma, who has been transfered back to India.

London: The Indian High Commission here
has issued a blow-by-blow account on the alleged wife-bashing
by its senior diplomat Anil Verma, who has been transfered
back to India, saying the incident was "provoked" by a row
over a Christmas tree gift.

Taking a tough stand on domestic violence, the mission
in a statement here said, "there is no question of condoning
domestic violence which is totally unacceptable. Once the
officer returns to India, the matter will be thoroughly
investigated and acted upon appropriately."

Noting that the Ministry of External Affairs has taken
a serious view in the matter, it said, "the laws of the land
would take care of any acts that need to be taken care of,
consequent to the inquiry."

Verma, a senior IAS officer of West Bengal cadre,
joined the High Commission here as Minister (Economic),
ranking number three in the mission, on August 24, 2009.

Narrating the sequence of events, the five-page
statement said, "apparently, the incident was provoked by a
gift (a Christmas tree) made by Verma`s aunt (her mother`s
sister who is married to Robert Chase and lives near their
house) to their son.

"This was objected to by Verma and led to an

According to the statement, Verma had offered to buy a
Christmas tree for their son. However, Verma`s wife Paromita
had said that since they already had a tree from the previous
year, they did not need to buy one.

Subsequently, when a Christmas tree was gifted by Mrs
Chase, Verma said that he felt humiliated.

He wanted to remove the tree from the house. When he
went upstairs to do this, Paromita followed him and tried to
prevent him from doing so.

In the scuffle that followed, she was injured.
According to Verma, "Mrs Verma was hit on the face
when he was trying to remove the Christmas tree from the house
and she was trying to forcibly prevent him from doing so.

According to Mrs Verma, she was slapped. This resulted in
bleeding from her nose due to damage to tissues in the nose.

"Mrs Verma ran out of her house and her neighbours
called the police and an ambulance. The police recorded Mrs
Verma`s statement (which was also signed by her) after which
Mrs Verma was taken by the ambulance to the Hospital and
returned to her residence the same day." The High Commission officials visited Verma`s
residence on December 13, 2010, to enquire about the incident
and Mrs Verma`s welfare.

At no point was Mrs Verma berated or threatened by
the High Commission officials, the statement said.

Mrs Verma, while expressing dissatisfaction with the
state of affairs in her marriage, said that her continued stay
in the UK was important from the point of view of treatment of
her younger son (who was at that time bed-ridden and was being
tutored at home by a visiting teacher).

She requested that "Verma should be firmly spoken to
and should be advised to go in for counselling. Mrs Verma
also indicated that she would like to sort out matters with
her husband and would also go with him for counselling.

"Verma was spoken to in appropriate terms and told
that the use of force was totally unacceptable and that under
no circumstances or provocation should this recur. Were this
to happen again, it would be untenable.

"In his response, Verma said that this was the first
time such an incident had happened and he promised that it
would not recur. He also agreed to go for counselling along
with Mrs Verma.

"Both Mr and Mrs Verma were suitably told that as
diplomats, they were expected to conduct themselves with
dignity and decorum. The High Commission`s concerns over such
incidents notwithstanding, the differences between Mr and Mrs
Verma would basically have to be sorted out by the two

In the circumstances, it was decided that the couple
be given a chance to amicably sort out their differences.

According to the statement, "On January 3, 2011, Verma
formally informed the High Commission that he was being
subjected to harassment and tension by his wife, mother-in-law
and Mr and Mrs Chase.

He was also being repeatedly taunted that he was a

On account of this, Verma said that he was finding it
difficult to live at his official residence as he was afraid
that another incident might take place and he wanted to move
out at the earliest.

High Commission officials visited Verma`s residence in
the evening of January 3, 2011.

In the evening of January 3, 2011, Verma moved out of
his official residence into a hotel. His wife and other
members of the family continued to stay at the official
residence. On January 5, 2011, Verma informed the High Commission
that his wife and other members of the family were no longer
contactable at his official residence and that Mrs Verma was
not responding to his telephone calls.

The High Commission also tried to establish contact
with Mrs Verma but without success.

As Verma did not have the keys to his house and he
needed to access it, he went to his residence on January 6,
2011, along with a High Commission official, to get the locks

At the request of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (FCO), the High Commission officials met officials of
the Protocol Directorate of the FCO on January 10, 2011.

The High Commission officials emphasised that the
incident was unfortunate and that the High Commission was
taking appropriate steps in its wake.

On January 13, 2011, FCO wrote to the High Commission
requesting for waiver of Verma`s diplomatic immunity.

The note further stated that failure to waive Verma`s
immunity will result in an immediate request for Verma and his
dependents to be withdrawn from the UK.

On January 17, 2011, the High Commission informed the
FCO through a Note Verbale that a decision has been taken by
the Government of India to transfer Anil Verma and his family
to India.