The strip search of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade is a matter of absolute dismay for India. It has not just turned up the heat within the diplomatic community, but also among political class with the general election at the door. No political party is willing to go soft on this matter, prescribing toughest stand against the US. India has termed the matter as barbaric and has initiated tough actions on US with the help of a series of steps. The total incidence is also considered as a conspiracy in which Devyani Khobragade was trapped in.
Devyani Khobragade, a 39 year old 1999 batch IFS officer was posted as deputy consul general in New York and was suddenly taken into custody on visa fraud charges last week. She was released on a $250,000 bond after pleading not guilty in court. She was strip searched which was humiliating but the incident is stated as standard procedure by the US.
The contentious history of strip search
The US justice system was challenged one and a half years ago regarding the strip search procedure. Crossing different levels the matter reached the Supreme Court, where strip search was approved. Justice Anthony Kennedy with the majority of five judges on the bench had adjudged “Every detainee who will be admitted to the general (incarcerated) population may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed”. Justice Stephen Breyer described the strip searches as a serious affront to human dignity and individual privacy.He even described the fourth amendment of the American constitution against unreasonable searches as prohibiting strip searches of those detained for minor offences not involving drugs or violence.
Even though the strip search is approved by the Supreme Court and is practiced in the US the matter remains controversial within the social circles in the country. On one hand US talks about improving the bilateral relationship with India, and on the other hand, it treats Indian consul and other authorities in a despicable manner. These types of issues have occurred time and again in the past which shows the biased nature of America. Former president of India Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam was frisked by the employees of American airlines, actor Shahrukh Khan was detained in American airport, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was not allotted visa.
Here before behaving in such a reckless manner, US should have informed Indian embassy,but it gave wrong information that the Indian mission was informed in September about the allegation of abuse made against Devyani by an Indian national,and that they were in touch with India on this issue. This has become a matter of indignation among some officials.
India hits back
The incident has brought in a huge political storm in India. Rarely both Congress and BJP show consensus over an issue, the Khobragade incident has put both the party on same side. All the ministers and leaders have cancelled their respective meetings with US delegations to protest against the strip search. According to BJP leader and former external affair minister Yashwant Sinha, India should retaliate in the same manner, by bringing in legal and constitutional frame to punish the US. According to him, same sex companions of US should also be punished by the government of India as Supreme Court in his ruling has labelled same sex as illegal. Same sex is completely illegal here as paying lesser wage was illegal in USA.
Meanwhile Congress is terming it as conspiracy to defame India. According to Salman Khurshid, the deputy consul general received a phone call from a lawyer, who refused to provide his identity, offered a settlement that would in turn grant Devyani, the permanent citizenship of the country along with heavy compensation. India has accused the US of granting fraud visa to the family of the absconding maid, who is in the centre of this storm, even when India repeatedly informed the US about the chances of illegal immigration by maid and her family.
Along with the furore across the country the Indian government has taken steps to withdraw facilities given to the US diplomats staying in India.The Identity cards given to all the US diplomats in India has been withdrawn. The facility of automatic import of goods by US diplomats has been withdrawn. Government has asked the US embassy and missions in different states to submit the salary details of workers and staffs, both Indian and foreign. India has asked US mission to submit the employment details and visas of all staff and teachers of American schools.Government has asked Delhi police to review the need to provide barricades outside the US embassy in New Delhi as security. India has also decided to withdraw the airport passes for all US diplomats. India is taking these strict decisions even though India abides by the Vienna Convention Act 1972.In this law there is a rule(section 4) that India is free to withdraw privileges and immunity from diplomats of that country who itself have violated the Vienna Convention Act.
Even though the behaviour of America with the Indian diplomat is condemnable and farcical and the retaliation, opposition and protest by India are justified, the agitation should not affect the bilateral relation between India and US. The strain in the relation may countermine the effort made for the betterment of the relationship. Both countries should arrive on a single point agenda in this matter and solve in a justified manner. At the same time, India must make it clear to US that such humiliating act effecting personal privacy and denigrating India’s image will not be accepted at any cost. India should genuinely work out a plan in this matter to stop the repeated bias of American authorities. India should keep aside the concern about the general election and look after the restoration of the dignity of Devyani Khobragade as now it is the matter of India’s prestige.