Devyani Khobragade, India's deputy consul general in the Consulate General of India in New York was arrested on December 12, 2013 on charges of visa fraud by United States. The arrest followed by mistreatment of the Indian diplomat by law enforcement officials in US led to a diplomatic tangle between India and the US. A lot is being said in favor of Khobragade or against Sangeeta Richards, who went and complained against her employer in US. But what lies underneath the obvious story - who is the victim? Wishesh tries to uncover the puzzle of Devyani Khobragade case.
The Devyani Khobragade case begins with Sangeeta Richard, her domestic help. The visa fraud charges that Khobragade has been alleged to have committed is in fact related to Richards' visa documents. According to a report in The Indian Express, on November 2012 Sangeeta Richard, hailing from Kerala, was hired by Devyani. Sangeeta Richard is married to Philip, who is employed at Mozambique Embassy in New Delhi as a driver. Her father-in-law works at the US Embassy and even her mother-in-law used to work with a US government personnel.
The 42-year-old women went to the US as a nanny to Khobragade's kids on A-3 visa. However, on June 21, 2013 Richard went missing reportedly. Thereafter, her diplomatic passport had been cancelled. A-3 visas are non-immigrant visas granted to employees, attendants, and close family members of the principal visa holder and allow them to enter the US. It places no restriction upon the holder to move freely within the US, but it doesn't allow the person to work there on being removed from the position or if the employee leaves the position with their current employer willingly.
Devyani's attempt to file a complaint regarding Sangeeta Richard missing from her household failed as the New York Police Department informed her that only her immediate family members can file a missing person complaint. According to Devyani, in July Sangeeta Richard gave threat calls to her which she reported to both NYPD and the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM). The Indian diplomat even filed a complaint of harassment and blackmail with Delhi Police against Richards and her husband following a meeting that Devyani had with Sangeeta Richard in New York. Richard had reportedly threatened Khobragade at the meeting. Infact, the Delhi high court in September passed an interim order that lay restriction on Richards regarding filing of any complaint against her employer in a foreign court.
According to facebook posts of Devyani's sister, Sharmistha Khobragade, Richards was happy at the Khobragade household in New York. She had her own quarters with modern amenities and even had a separate entrance. The nanny also ate whatever the family ate and had full freedom to run the house. The post also reveals that Sangeeta Richard was given extra money over her salary. She had an I-Pad and used it to stay connected with her family via Facebook. Devyani even arranged for a mobile for Sangeeta. Besides, the former maid had the custody of her passport and copies of contract documents. During the meeting with Devyani at the immigration office, Sangeeta said that she didn't want to go back to India and that she wanted a normal passport. Sharmistha's post also revealed that Sangeeta Richard's mother-in-law reportedly said that she had wanted to live and work in the US.
The facebook post seems to point fingers at Sangeeta Richards. But, the story has other angles. Richards story also needs an unbiased hearing. Read the next part of the story to understand the case better.
(AW: Pratima Tigga)
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