"She is innocent. It is not the illegality that she (Khobragade) is accused of, but the illegality she refused to oblige," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told Parliament about Khobragade, who has suffered ill-treatment for allegedly paying her maid servant a salary less than minimum wages under the US laws. (JPN/Agencies)
Narrating the sequence of events that began in June-July this year, he said that the maid servant disappeared and a case was lodged with New York Police Department but no action was taken.
"The Deputy Consul General (later) received a phone call from a lawyer who refused to identify himself and offered to settle the matter that would result in grant of permanent citizenship to her and a huge compensation. It became clear that this was a conspiracy and some people trapped her," he said.
Making suo motu statements in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, he strongly condemned the treatment meted out to Khobragade who was arrested, handcuffed, strip-searched and put in jail with common criminals.
Khurshid said that the treatment meted out to Khobragade had ‘not happened out of blue’ and there is a ‘history’ behind it.
Terming the action by the US government as unwarranted, he asserted that India will intervene ‘effectively and specifically’ to ensure the return and restoration of dignity of its Deputy Consul General as it a matter of the country's prestige and honour.
His statement came in the wake of outrage expressed by members cutting across party lines who demanded strong retaliatory steps by the Indian government.
Vowing strong action, Khurshid said, "It is my responsibility. We will bring back the diplomat and restore her dignity. If I fail to do it, I will not return to this House."
Maintaining that the government is not over-reacting by taking a slew of measures against the US diplomats in India, he said, "First and foremost, our effort is to bring her out of this situation and then we will talk to the US government."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday termed as ‘deplorable’ the treatment meted out to Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade by the US authorities.
"This is deplorable," he told reporters outside Parliament when asked to comment on the Indian diplomat’s ill treatment in New York.
The Prime Minister's remarks on the issue came soon after the government asserted in Parliament that India will take strong steps to ensure the return of the 39-year-old diplomat and restoration of her dignity.
Outrage in Rajya Sabha
Members in the Rajya Sabha expressed outrage over the arrest and humiliation of Devyani Khobragade.
While Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley called for a review of India's foreign policy, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma described it as a ‘national outrage’ and said that the government had taken a stern view of it.
Jaitley said that it is time India insists on being treated like equals. "If we conduct foreign policy in a manner that we're taken for granted, then these incidents will be repeated,” he said.
"We need to introspect where we stand on foreign policy," he said, adding that the retaliatory measures India has taken needed to be continued.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said that the government should take up the case seriously as the diplomat was a Dalit and accused New Delhi of waking up late.
"It is a fact that the action is delayed because she is from Scheduled Caste community," she said.
Congress members protested her remark, but she did not relent.
Communist Party of India-Marxist's Sitaram Yechury said, "There have been Cabinet members in the NDA and UPA governments who have been subjected to such (treatment)."
“This cannot be accepted by any sovereign nation... The attitude needs to change," Yechury said.
Trinamool Congress member Derek O'Brien targeted the US, "We live in a global village but we don't need a self-appointed global village headman.
It is time now to codify all privileges India provides to US diplomats and the privileges our diplomats receive in the US,” he said.
DMK's Kanimozhi complained that time and again Indian leaders had been mistreated in the US.
Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav said that India seemed to suffer from an inferiority complex, which, he felt ‘is very sad’.
"She is innocent. It is not the illegality that she (Khobragade) is accused of, but the illegality she refused to oblige," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told Parliament about Khobragade, who has suffered ill-treatment for allegedly paying her maid servant a salary less than minimum wages under the US laws.