US Arrests, Strips Female Diplomat, to India's Dismay
Parliament takes token retaliatory measures, protest starts
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 18, 2013 1:41 PM CST
Activists protest the alleged mistreatment of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 18, 2013.   (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)
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(Newser) – Indian lawmakers lashed out at the US today over the arrest last week of an Indian diplomat in New York, which one MP called a blatant violation of the Vienna convention, the BBC reports. Devyani Khobragade was arrested last Thursday and charged with visa fraud, amidst allegations that she paid her full-time maid/babysitter just $3.31 an hour. After the deputy consul general was released on $250,000 bond, she emailed colleagues to say that she suffered "repeated handcuffing, stripping, and cavity searches, swabbing," and complained that she was detained with petty criminals, despite her "incessant assertions of immunity," Reuters reports. A Justice Department official confirmed the strip search; meanwhile, a State Department official explains Khobragade's immunity covers only offenses tied to her work.

The lawmakers instituted a series of token retaliatory measures against US diplomats, including a freeze on the import of duty-free alcohol; protective security barriers that line the front of the US embassy in New Delhi were removed yesterday. "It is no longer about an individual, it is about our sense of self as a nation," the foreign minister said. With an election coming, Indian politicians want to look patriotic, Reuters explains, and the issue seems to have struck a bit of a chord; a small group of about 30 protested in front of the US embassy today. The US hasn't apologized, but the State Department yesterday said it was "looking at our own intake procedures surrounding the arrest," the Times of India reports. It also revealed that it had alerted the Indian embassy, in writing, of the minimum wage violation and possible arrest as early as September, a revelation the paper thinks "could change the contours of the debate."