The past couple months, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and India have soured enormously over Devyani Khobragade and an unraveling spool of labor violation and visa fraud charges that have been alleged against the Indian diplomat. The Daily Mail has an excellent timeline of the events. Recap: Indian diplomat is suspected of visa fraud and employing a live-in nanny who she pays well below minimum wage. Then said diplomat is arrested and subsequently strip-searched and tested for drugs. Then said diplomat flees by plane to motherland to avoid facing charges, leaving behind young children and her husband.
Meanwhile Indian press obsesses not over the labor law violations, but over Khobragade’s treatment — par for the course in the U.S. — upon being arrested. That manufactured outrage then materializes into actual outrage as protests mount outside of the U.S. Embassy. During the flare-up and eventual die-down of this incident, there have been a number of absurd reactions — mainly from the motherland. Allow us to recap those.
• Khobragade’s dad has got some choice words about the whole ordeal, even alleging that Sangeeta Richard, Khobragade’s ex-maid, is an undercover member of the CIA: “Going by the developments that have taken place over the last one year, the government of India feels that it appears to be a conspiracy… Also from the given circumstances, we suspect that Sangeeta Richards [sic] is an agent of the CIA…We were made scapegoat in the whole case. Devyani is a brave woman and she has been performing all her duties regularly.” (The Daily Mail)
• Also, taking the smart eye-for-an-eye method to conflict resolution, the Indian government threatened to arrest the spouses of LGBT U.S. diplomats living in India, under Sec. 377. (The First Post)
• Outside the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, many protesters gathered, wearing Obama masks and simulating their interpretation of strip-searches — and even burning pictures of the U.S. President. (CBS)
• Shashi Tharoor, India’s Minister of State for Human Resource Development justified the below-minimum-wage salary Richard was receiving by arguing that Khobragade herself was not receiving a fair salary as a mid-ranking Indian diplomat and that as a maid, Richard enjoyed other perks:
The cash part of the salary may be low by US standards — Khobragade herself, as a mid-ranking Indian diplomat, earns less than what the US considers a fair wage — but, with the other benefits, the compensation is attractive for a domestic helper. More to the point, Khobragade did not find her maid in the US labor market and “exploit” her; she brought her from India to help her in her representational duties, on an official passport, with a US visa given for that purpose. In almost no other country are local labor laws applied in such a manner to a foreign diplomat’s personal staff.
• The Indian media’s insistence on using Nannygate to highlight how India has fallen off President Obama’s list of priorities. (Times of India)
• Khobragade’s sister alleged that Richard enjoyed such luxuries as extra rooms, cash allowances, and even an iPad — all the while not really addressing the whole paying-below-minimum-wage and no-health-insurance and working-seven-days-a-week talking points. (Times of India)