Saturday, January 18, 2014

Is "Human Trafficking" Unimportant to India?

From the Times of India:

Wayne’s world: Was expelled US official a bleeding heart or an ugly American?
WASHINGTON: The US official who was expelled in a tit-for-tat diplomatic battle over Devyani Khobragade was nearing the end of his posting in India, scheduled to leave New Delhi in February. But in their three years in India, Wayne May, who headed the US embassy's security team in New Delhi, and his wife Alicia Muller May, who worked as the embassy's community liaison officer, revealed conflicting impulses and contradictory outlook towards the people and country they served in.

On the one hand, it was evidently their bleeding heart concern for housekeeper Sangeeta Richard, whose in-laws worked with them and a succession of US embassy officials, that led them to "rescue" the nanny's husband and children from the strong-arm tactics of the Indian judicial and police system that diplomat Devyani Khobragade unleashed on them after Sangeeta fell out with her. On the other hand, their facetious comments about a stereotypical India abounding in chaos and filth, which some might see as offensive, shows them as the archetypal "ugly Americans".

They laid out their opinions and views quite guilelessly on social media through photographs and comments that were quickly seized on and distributed by bloggers and trolls ever sensitive to any perceived insult of India. Although the comments are often flippant, the kind many people make on social media without fear of consequence, they sound extremely offensive now given the fraught context of the diplomatic spat. Their profiles, pictures and comments were removed and their social media presence sanitized soon after they were discovered, but not before the online warriors had saved and uploaded them on other social media sites, portraying them as "racist American diplomats". [...]
You can read the rest of the article, to see the offensive facebook posts. They might have been insensitive, in the strictest sense, but they were also truthful. I think many Americans do find India to be a place of contradictions.

I found it interesting how the article kinda glosses over the "the strong-arm tactics of the Indian judicial and police system", and the way it puts the word "rescue" in quotes, and then proceeds to hype the facebook comments. But honestly, which is more serious: Comments on a facebook page, or Human Trafficking?

All the articles I've read in the Indian press, seem to completely ignore the accusations against Devyani Khobragade. Are they really so unimportant and irrelevant?

It's not like she and her family are squeaky clean. It seems there is some scandal in India, regarding politics and realestate.

I don't know if the accusations made against her in New York are true, but a trial would have revealed that, but she didn't stick around to defend herself. Was she mistreated? That would have been explored/exposed in a trial also, but she left. Was it because she didn't want the truth to be revealed? Perhaps she would have been exonerated from some charges, but not others, and chose not to risk that?

I can't help but wonder if this really is more about something going on between the India and USA governments, some sort of power play, and this incident is just a symptom of something larger that we're not hearing about? Is there any foundation to the charges against Khobragade? Why, or why not? Real journalists might ask questions like these, but there don't seem to be any anymore, anywhere. Instead, we get the tit-for-tat stuff, because it sells newspapers, I guess. It seems their newspapers are just as rubbishy as ours. More hype than content.

Update 01/15/14: Also see:

Timeline: The case of Devyani Khobragade and Sangeeta Richard
A timeline of the facts?

Claim Against Indian Diplomat Has Echoes of Previous Cases
NYC unionized workers take the side of the maid. At the end of the article, local Indian merchants in NYC are quoted, saying the maid should have been grateful, because she would have been treated much worse in India.

Since she claims she was forced to work from 6am to llpm everyday, without being paid, with only two hours off on Sunday to go to church, I guess that "Worse in India" must be really, really bad.

Devyani Khobragade incident
Wikipedia provides it's version of the facts. Which seems more or less what I've read elsewhere.

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