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To those ranting "Anti-national" jibes on Social media about Phd Scholar, ‪#‎RohithVemula‬ from the University of Hyderabad who committed suicide last Sunday evening, let us try and understand what Rohith Vemula stood for:

1. We may disagree with Rohith's protest against Yakub Memon's hanging, but here's the thing:

Remember that whether a democratic nation can carry out "Capital Punishment" is already a Global debate. More than 100 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. . He says on Yakub Memon hanging," If death penalty is the only punishment we can offer to the convicted people, we must stop calling OUR NATION democratic. So, Rohith just stood towards 'that' side of the debate on 'Capital Punishments'

His 'Anti-Terrorism' credentials are very much evident through his FB posts where he vehemently criticizes ISIS, Patriarchy in Saudi Arabia or where he expresses strong grief and solidarity towards the Indian Jawans martyred in 2008 Mumbai Blasts or more recently in Pathankot. His words, "26th November marks the 7th Anniversary for the grisly attacks on Mumbai killing 173 people. The terrorist attacks motivated by extremist religious ideology left the nation in huge shock and it questioned our basic understanding of combating terrorism. The attacks were a demonstration of how dangerous the mix of chauvinistic nationalism and religious bigotry could be. On this day it is important for everyone of us to resolve against any extremist ideology, illogical hatred and depending upon religion to make our daily choices."

2. We may disagree with his support to Beef-Festival, but here's the thing (In his own words from his FB post):

" First of all, I am not one of those who think beef eating is eternally emancipatory. And I am not also a cultural apologist.Something is a psuedo-scientific thing, I would not wish it to be continued on the name of cultural tradition. Coming to the core aspect of my ranting, beef eating in public is not an act of reclaiming something from the history. It was to show resistance for those contemporary forces in today's India (Well, must be said the Always' India, no?) who think that they can control the others' way of life. Beef eating is an element of culture of resistance which must concern everyone rather than an exclusive Dalit resistance culture.
Eating beef and celebrating beef eating is an act of solidarity with all those who are getting murdered on this reason nation wide. If we fail to see the fact that the BJP-RSS-VHP scheme of anti-beef campaign is essentially a tool to persecute Muslim minorities in this country, we would regret for being the mute spectators of another mass unrest in OUR COUNTRY. The whole cow myth is less anti-Dalit today and more of anti-Muslim propaganda."

3. You may disagree with the initial Inquiry Committee's report which said:

"The Board could not get any hard evidence of beating of Susheel Kumar either from Krishna Chaitanya or from the reports submitted by Dr.Anupama. Dr.Anupama's reports also could not link or suggest the surgery of the Susheel Kumar is the direct result of the beating."

The above matter though is being currently investigated, therefore we must wait till the facts are completely established on this.

Finally, you may disagree with his various viewpoints, but let us hold-on and understand what Rohith stood for throughout his short life. Rohith's ultimate 'struggle' through all his actions as an activist of ASA was to use his own words from his suicide note and another post was for:

a) "The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living".

b) "The shift of my political identity from Marxism to Ambedkarism is a conscious move into building a new future on the basis of more humane, more inclusive society".

.. and many more of his posts only reveal that he always dreamt to work for an INCLUSIVE, IDENTITY-LESS society which Babasaheb Ambedkar always aspired. Rohith had his own brand/idea of Nation & Nationalism which Babasaheb explains as below:

Dr. Ambedkar’s idea of nation is not only of a political or geographical entity, having a map and a flag. He didn’t subscribe to the popular definition of nation something as “large group of people living in one area with their own government, language, traditions, etc. (Cambridge Dictionary).” For him idea of nation has to have a philosophical and spiritual connotation with welfare, equity and fraternity as central themes. While explaining his idea of nation he had quoted French philosopher Ernest Renan saying that “A nation is a living soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth are but one, constitute the soul, this spiritual principle. The actual consent, the desire to live together."

Therefore, before we brand Rohith as "Anti-National" etc, let us introspect whether are we not guilty of being intolerant towards a viewpoint or action which does not go well with our understanding of Nation or Nationalism or Humanity?

We may say that Rohith committed suicide because of the events, the Social Boycott through the external influences and the might of political powers viz: MLC, MP, Union Ministers etc that followed in the campus. However, the fact is that he took such a step for more "FUNDAMENTAL" reason, principles and concerns about the society around, quite evident through his letter. How the VALUE OF MAN who deserves to be TREATED AS A MIND and a glorious thing made up of star dust has been reduced to some IMMEDIATE IDENTITY throughout his various lifetime experiences. We must admit that there has to be something wrong with the campuses and society around when we have the alarming figures available on Dalit students committing suicides due to PREJUDICE around. By the way, Rohith wasn't a mere student but a Phd Scholar who achieved the Phd seat without using his SC status. So the 'incompetence', 'reservations' argument for suicides does not hold in case of Rohith but only the argument of Prejudice he faced does. This is evident when he suggests to VC for a Rope, Sodium Azide, Euthanasia to Dalit students "With a dire, to use If they feel like reading Ambedkar". Clearly, he appears disturbed with a fact that one cannot survive (due to caste-prejudice) with Liberty in the University if one asserts the views of Ambedkar in open. Rohith finally lost the hope about the fundamental ideas of human life and the world which he aspired for. This is evident from below words in his suicide note:

"I loved Science, Stars, Nature, but then I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. Our feelings are second handed. Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art"

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"Not speaking about caste cannot eradicate the caste.... It just makes the discrimination nameless!!! And our activisms are not Identity politics, they are struggles for recognition." -  Rohith Vemula
Expelled_students_forced_to_vacate_hostels
Rohith proudly carrying the "dangerous substance" while he was expelled (socially boycotted) from the hostel.

 

As they say, Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. While quitting from this world, Rohith manifests that he was a Great mind, one, by NOT blaming "PEOPLE" (even enemies) and two, NOT any EVENTS but three, purely his IDEAS about the human life & his world-view behind his decision to depart from his life.

People (driven by some ideologies around) who in a way are celebrating Rohith's death, the only thought which comes to mind is "Maut bhi jinki aanko me ashk nahi laati, kaise maan le ye insan ki aulaade hain". However, poetic response to radical jibes is less engaging hence less democratic approach towards dissent, hence the above piece..

The students from all social backgrounds have stood-up now, for this is not an issue of one caste, one person, and one incidence. This is the issue of Human rights and about Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Justice.

Let's hope and wish we 'Understand' (if not agree with) Rohith apart from the ideological debates around, at least after he is gone, to use his words again.."in search of another world from the shadows towards the stars, HAPPY DEAD THAN BEING ALIVE".

 

By Pratik Tembhurne

One Last time,

JAI BHEEM, Rohith !

5

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread. ~ Anatole France

Rights, like laws are determined by the powerful to address problems they face or allow actions they prefer and apply "equally" to all. These also happen to be those unlikely to prevent them from acting as they wish.

We seem to have reached an era where we "harvest" the power of hard won rights to ensure unfettered freedoms for some, while the most dangerous instances of suppressed rights continue to go under the radar.

To me, Charlie Hebdo appeared to be among such instances before the attack. Its right to free speech was largely protected by both laws and culture. There was little question of it not being allowed to have its range of free speech and that speech (in my opinion) was squandered on making a point of being offensive in a juvenile manner. I had earlier promised to publish the offensive cartoons (without seeing them) - regardless of Indian laws on the matter as a statement against violent and extra-judicial suppression of free speech. However, after seeing them, I am forced to limit myself to writing, as I honestly couldn't find anything funny about a star coming out of an ass - for example. My five year old son probably would (he even thinks farts are hilarious and breaks out laughing every time he hears one), but he doesn't blog here yet. Regardless, there is no question that free speech includes the right to be offensive as well as juvenile.

On another level, I am reminded of two recent rape cases to hit media courts - but not courts of law till the state took suo moto action in one. Both cases saw women well versed with women's rights and procedures and law after rape make no attempt to comply with the law by promptly undergoing medical tests or filing police cases. Both these women were unhesitatingly supported by more women's rights activists, lawyers and journalists, and yet the only action taken was public leaks of accusations that resulted in media character assassination campaigns that protected the identity of the victim and unquestioningly published accusations as fact in the manner of press releases and left no room for the accused to even speak in their own favor.

What I find common to both instances is empowered entities having full knowledge of their rights and using them to maximum effect, exercising their freedoms with little responsibility beyond knowing own rights.

In a world where battered and bleeding women showing monumental courage walking into police stations to file rape charges get denied, in a world where states silence dissent or target communities on the basis of identity, to exercise rights in a manner that flaunts their potential to hurt innocents has a very predictable backlash that questions the necessity of the right to exist at all without limitations.

The more insults are heaped on religion for the sheer joy of insulting, the more are voices disturbed by indiscriminate hurt caused demanding a leash. The more women flaunt the unequal protections granted to protect the voiceless many women routinely denied justice, the more misogynists claim that women use the law to punish men and there are few cases of real justice. It also seems a bit farcical to me to claim massive trauma from a fleeting incident the victim did not attempt to avoid a repeat of, in a country where marital rape (often painful and repeated) is not just common but perfectly legal and the women continue to function, while living within easy reach of their rapists (who enjoy complete impunity) without any crippling trauma recognizable to outrage brigades. It is also a country where no particular effort is visible to insist on justice for cases that are not young professional women, low caste, outside cities (particularly Delhi) and so on. And cases are cherry picked to be sensitive to, with little uniformity of importance for cases across the spectrum the crime covers.

Similarly, we see targeting for race as wrong, so why is targeting for religion a right? Similarly, in France, why is banning of specific headgear only for Muslim women wrong, but ridiculing the religion right? It is hardly a secret that your free speech won't extend to pedophilia - even if the pedophile is staunchly against child rape and insists on consent. Who went and decided that children don't have the free speech to consent to sex? For that matter, why are violent rape porn or child rape porn CARTOONS illegal, when obviously no one got harmed in making them? Why is a person who praises the attack on Charlie Hebdo or defends it "supporting terrorism" as opposed to merely exercising free speech to express an opinion? Is it that there is someone sitting up there deciding what should offend us and what shouldn't? Is it that this "righteous offense" is determined unilaterally by some entity that is no more accepting of "free speech" than a religious person, but remains unquestioned? Will we some day see a cartoon ridiculing someone who demands a ban on child rape porn cartoons? Yes these examples are "offensive" - we are discussing a right to offend, right?

This is not to say that exercising rights is wrong. It cannot be wrong and must never be leashed. However, there appears to be disproportionate utility or access to rights that is troubling.

For example, another way the Charlie Hebdo attack reminded me of rape was the motive for the crime being "provocation".

There is a perpetual conservative response that blames the victim and recommends not offending. In effect, creating a right to be offended. On the other hand, the offense being social, the mere upholding of rights does little to prevent unjust and illegal retaliation. Those at risk must strike their own balance between continuing to enjoy their rightful freedoms and exercising caution. Regardless of who is at fault, it is the life of the victim that ends up devastated or lost altogether. There is bravery in bold stands, but there is nothing wrong with installing a phone app that allows you to instantly broadcast an SOS - for example.

Less discussed is the willingness to risk the safety of another. Just because a woman should have the right to travel in the city alone at all hours (and you would do it as a ringing statement of your freedom), would you ask a woman employee or relative to travel alone at night in .... Delhi - for example? I suspect the day is not far that publishers of content that can trigger a violent backlash will consider the potential risk of the editorial stance to employees or others tasked to protecting their lives.

While even empowered women are long used to compromising freedoms for safety and finding ways to exercise rights when they really matter rather than making risk a way of life regardless of importance of goal; the question of free speech remains stuck on absolutes that depend on the world comprehending specific ideals and respecting them. This is not a criticism of any choice - they are all our right and our safety is our right regardless.

There is also a need to include more voices on what we agree on as rights. While I believe that free speech and particularly the right to challenge entrenched bastions of authority (including government and religion) must be sacrosanct, my belief in democracy also forces me to accept that like any other participant in a democracy, I have no special right to have my specific preferences met and those contradicting it, overruled. I would rather prefer to dig in my heels on those saving lives and rights. I also believe it is more important that free speech or women's rights (or indeed any other rights - women's rights is just an example) not be trivialized in a manner that shakes popular support to crucial, life and death need. In my eyes, the need to prevent the suppression of expression of religious belief through attire trumps the need to allow juvenile, racist crudery that effectively deems large swathes of humanity as inferior. In my eyes, it is more important that Saudi Arabia flogging a blogger be fought - with international pressure, if need be; than the right to stereotype and demean people.

I don't dispute that these are rights and can and will be exerted in a whole range of ways that will be as diverse as there are people. What I am suggesting is that uniformity and equality demands that we understand the variations in urgency and ensure basic rights and freedoms more equally before allowing free rein to a few disproportionate voices. Perhaps there is also a question of why some kinds of radicalization is unacceptable while other kinds of radicalization are free speech. After all, having a near cult following for juvenile insults to all sorts of diverse cultures cannot be all that different from seeing your religion as the only true one and discriminating against others. Except that the "holy book" of the "religion of offending as a means of creating enlightenment" is illustrated and easier to read.

That said, because Charlie Hebdo faced the attack, upholding its right to free speech now becomes paramount, as opposed to merely supporting the right to free speech of yet another kind of religious fundamentalism.

There is also a need for believers of all religions who do not support violence to not blame the actions that "provoked" the criticism by enacting the religion in a manner that brings it disrepute. What Islam (or Hinduism in India) "really" is becomes irrelevant if it manifests as a danger to others. Religious people need to recognize that it isn't their humanitarian description getting insulted and avoid providing smokescreens to criminals by making it about themselves. Violent fanatics conducting cold, premeditated murders while yelling "Allah hu Akbar" or "Jai Shri Ram" are not a figment of the imagination of someone who likes to harass peaceful people. It is time to accept that there are people who enact your religion in ugly ways without your permission and either be okay with it or join the criticism of your own religion for not being enacted in a manner compatible with what you believe it "really" is. Jumping into the fray as victims without interpretation you endorse being criticized only implies that you will allow crimes in the name of your religion and are defending them. This helps no one. Least of all your religion.

What happened at the Charlie Hebdo premises was ugly, tragic and unwarranted - plain wrong. It was a crime and this article makes no attempt to justify it. The intent is only to dig in deeper to a level where we are able to find dialogue that goes beyond camps of "people like us" with "preferences like ours" to uphold. If it manages to engage people into deeper dialogue on what comprises free speech and attempts to find agreement across a wider range of humanity, perhaps over time we may find ways to strengthen and deepen the manifestation of rights - beyond merely being accepted as ideals - to a point where all are strengthened and conversations fuel enlightenment rather than provocation or outrage.

Gujarat Police gave him the “choice” of being implicated in the Godhra train burning, Haren Pandya murder and Akshardham terror, one of the men acquitted by the Supreme Court in the temple attack case alleged on Tuesday.

Mohammed Saleem was eventually sentenced to life under POTA for involvement in the Akshardham case.
On May 16, the day Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi won his historic mandate, the Supreme Court set Saleem and five others free, pulling up the Gujarat Police for framing innocent people, and blaming the then home minister — Modi — for “non-application of mind”. Four of the six men had already spent over 10 years in jail.

“I had been working in Saudi Arabia for 13 years, when they picked me up alleging there was a problem with my passport. They beat me brutally — I still have scars on my back, and I suffered a fracture in my foot. They asked me which case I wanted to be charged under — Akshardham, Haren Pandya or Godhra. I did not know what to say,” Saleem told a press conference addressed by five of the six men in Delhi.
Saleem’s daughter was born four months after his arrest. He picked her up in his arms for the first time only after his release — the child is 10 years old now.

The world of Abdul Qaiyum Muftisaab Mohammed Bhai alias Mufti Abdul Qaiyum has changed completely in the 11 years that he spent in jail. His father is dead, and his family no longer lives in their old home. His acquittal by the Supreme Court, Qaiyum said, was “mere release from prison; justice had been buried at every moment in these 11 years”.

Qaiyum said the main charge against him was that two letters recovered from the two fidayeen killed in the terror attack had been written by him. He was framed, Qaiyum alleged.

“For three days and nights, they made me copy a letter that they had given me. They (the police) would bring an expert each day to check whether I had copied it well. They would ask me to copy the turns and twists of the Urdu letters so that they looked exactly the same as in the letter. I was very afraid, and did what they told me to do,” he said. “Then they claimed in court that I had written the letters.”
Qaiyum said that in jail, he met the police officers who had framed him, and asked them why they had done so. “I met G L Singhal. Though they (police officers) were kept separately, we sometimes bumped into each other. I told him (Singhal): ‘Please tell me why did you do this to me.’ His young son had committed suicide, and that had made him feel what grief was. He had no answer.”

Arshad Madani, president of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind which organised the press conference, said, “I am willing to talk things over with anybody to ensure such things do not happen, but I feahim (Singhal): ‘Please tell me why did you do this to me.’ His young son had committed suicide, and that had made him feel what grief was. He had no answer.”

Arshad Madani, president of the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind which organised the press conference, said, “I am willing to talk things over with anybody to ensure such things do not happen, but I fear that there is a real chance that this will actually happen more often.”

He said the Jamiat would approach the Supreme Court to seek punishment for the officers who had framed the men. “Supreme Court and judiciary is our last hope. The government and the media have been biased, and an atmosphere has been created in which every Muslim is seen as a terrorist,” Madani said.r that there is a real chance that this will actually happen more often.”

He said the Jamiat would approach the Supreme Court to seek punishment for the officers who had framed the men. “Supreme Court and judiciary is our last hope. The government and the media have been biased, and an atmosphere has been created in which every Muslim is seen as a terrorist,” Madani said.

This article originally appears in the Indian Express. Reproducing it here because I don't trust our government enough that articles like this may not go missing in the future.

My rift with what passes off for the voice of Indian feminists in public space grows. This time, over reckless grandstanding with LGBT rights.

It has come to my attention that India's feminists have made LGBT rights an election issue. It is unclear how many of these feminists belong to the LGBT community (I don't either) and what gives them the right to decide such things for others when they insist in women having their own voice.

Indian feminists increasingly appear to be bloated on their own sense of self importance bestowed by a media happy to trigger thoughts of violence against women for TRPs under the guise of condemning it. Not unlike the mandatory rape scene of a certain class of films from when I used to watch films (long ago).

The idea of LGBT rights as an election issue is not just reckless, it is engineered to harm LGBT rights.

India is the country where you have all major religions of the country - normally squabbling till your teeth ache - standing shoulder to shoulder to prevent LGBT rights, a right wing that is potentially on the verge of taking control of the country and the idea seems to be to point out to the homophobic majority who the people are who will make their every homophobic paranoia come true if elected. And then they vote for the country they want. Try getting a vote for your right to wear what you want in Saudi Arabia. Or heck India will do. If others should't have the right to decide your dress, who died and made you God that you grant others the right to decide whether LGBT should have rights or not? Why not let Khaps decide your rights then?

Some religious zealot doing this, I can understand. The right to decide by mob whether an individual has rights. Feminists engineering this with pride? Have all the brains gone on collective vacation?

How many rights are going to be sacrificed by air heads greedy for the next grand stand in media? Media is patriarchy, because it is driven by TRP and male controlled corporates and politicians. Instead of some slim young professional "people like us" handpicked individual case with a story that sells, bring up marital rape, domestic violence, tribal women instead of only Soni Sori, a 42 year old mother of five from some slum raped and watch your halo wilt and TRPs drop and you find the earth under your feet. That is where the women of India are.

The LGBT community is somewhere below that in public perception. They are not even understood as persons deserving of rights, let alone persons whose rights should be legalized. Unlike half of society being women, they are tiny numbers scattered all over the country. Not even concentrated in one constituency. What bright idea was it to make their rights open to debate and the subject of a standoff. What gives any idiot the right to make someone's fundamental right the subject of debate?

What is the consequence if Modi wins and LGBT rights are thrown in the dustbin and the clear verdict is people would have voted if they wanted such things in society? More talk shows? What should the community do? Who is to prevent enforcement of section 377 claiming mandate of the people?

Votes should be for people's needs, not their right to impose their prejudices on others or grant rights, as though an LGBT person's right to have sex with who they like is a concession given to them by the heterosexual majority. A democratic government must govern to make the people thrive, but must also govern for reform - whether voters like it or not. You get your jobs and decreased inflation and whatever shit, and you shut up and obey a law that says people who are not you have rights too. Just like you. Not up for vote. Country belongs to all and all have freedom to be and thrive in it. You can't protect minorities by throwing them at the mercy of a majority that actively persecutes them.

Which is what you do, when you make LGBT rights a matter people can vote for or against.

Idiot bubblegum feminists.

Indians mistreating domestic workers is nothing new. We casually raise our eyebrows at domestic workers raped, killed and tortured. Such news coming from politician's homes may be an opportunity for ridiculing the party, but it isn't going to see anyone protesting on the streets. Nor is anyone going to stop voting for a politician just because of stories of abuse of domestic workers.

It is tradition in India to whine about rising costs of domestic workers at home, and middle class house wives grudge every hundred rupee raise in their charges and speak of their arrogance in extorting money just because people need work done. What is the income of a domestic worker? It can be anything from Rs. 300 to Rs. 800 "per work" per month, depending on where you are in the country. So a woman who comes and sweeps and mops your house gets Rs.800 per month from you, if she washes your dishes as well, you can add another Rs.800 and so on.

Domestic work is probably the only "job sector" in India, where the industrial revolution is never going to make an inroad, because it takes more money added to your electricity bill to use a vacuum cleaner, washing machine or dishwasher daily than to employ a maid, who can do the job better - not to mention the time you spend on the work in addition. And of course, the maid doesn't wash only the dishes in the sink and leave the washed dishes in the sink as well. She will tidy the home, and "process" the clothes on the floor before sweeping it, take your tea mug to the kitchen and wash it and return it to its correct place. Something a vacuum cleaner or dishwasher or washing machine is never going to do for you.

So it is hardly surprising that we don't really see domestic workers as people. They are just more efficient alternatives to machines, at best and inferior slave humans for those not touched by modernity.

Some of the worst stories do come from "elite" households, like locking a domestic worker inside the home while you go on a vacation, or of course your garden variety rape and torture. We aren't even looking at stuff like the occasional slap or yelling yet. No point even talking about money deducted on whim for "lack of delivery" of efficient service ranging from days off to imperfect work. And of course you can fire them on whim. Like "don't come from tomorrow". That is all it takes.

Similarly, we don't particularly take seriously stories of abuse of Indian domestic workers abroad. Forget US. Check out some of the horror stories coming out of Saudi Arabia, where women can't even head out on their own if abused. And most of these stories are women and children. The idea of an Indian Embassy is an alien concept for inferior Indians abroad. You think the country is going to rattle relations with another country over abuse of a maid? We abuse maids in India, so what's the big deal if Indian maids get abused abroad?

Domestic workers are busy with twelve and fourteen hour days in order to be able to afford to survive. They are hardly going to stand at India gate in protest and get their pay docked for those days, not to mention the risk of losing their jobs to another desperate soul who will promise not to take days off that inconvenience their masters. And those employing them to care for their homes while they wore white and carried candles to protest a rape are not going to get those candles and whites out over a maid.

India has signed the ILO convention for rights of domestic workers in 2011, but is yet to ratify it. Calls to fix a domestic worker's minimum wage to Rs.30 per hour have fallen on deaf ears. This Rs. 30 per hour would give an income of Rs.9,000 to a worker who *worked* 10 hours a day - not including travel between places of work, which basically would mean a 12 hour working day of hard physical labour. But this would triple what they get paid in many places. So obviously the idea of a maid being paid Rs.30,000 being underpaid is a bit alien in India.

I make a point of paying my domestic help significantly more than the going rate as well as offering food and ensuring that she is never abused  or coerced into working more than she contracted to in my household. And I am still not paying her what would be a recommended rate. I should, but I need help, and I can't afford, so I do what I can, and apologize for not doing better. It is not a new thing for people who come to know this to accuse me of "spoiling the maid" or "raising their expectations" or "spoiling the working rate for our locality".  Because the idea is that there should be a default refusal to give maids anything more than is unavoidable. Including and particularly money and dignity.

We even had a few wise people talking about how people should pay their domestic labour in India as per US rates before talking. Well, Devyani was not arrested for what she paid her babysitter in India. She was arrested for LYING on the visa form on what she would pay, and then not paying it. She is a hale and hearty person in a country with abundant domestic appliances and no shame attached to using them if she cannot afford help. But that, of course won't satisfy the average Indian sense of "value for money" on domestic work as is reflected in our country's reaction. "What do you mean paying maids normal salaries?" is the gist of our outrage.

But then Devyani isn't a stranger to faking paperwork for profit, is she? Devyani Khobragade faked documents - or rather withheld disclosure - to get a flat in the scam-tainted Adarsh Society where defense officials bureaucrats and politicians got allocated flats in an illegally expanded project building that was originally intended to provide housing to families of Kargil war heroes. Devyani owned a flat in Meera Cooperative Society in Oshiwara under the state government’s quota for civil servants. Maharashtra government requires an official applying for a flat under a government quota to give a signed affidavit stating that they do not own any other flat. It is unclear whether she did not give this affidavit, or gave a false affidavit. In any case, she has now reportedly sold the cheap quota flat for an exorbitant amount.

This is another Indian concept. Having the right paperwork for what you want to do. That the paperwork is supposed to be a record of reality is not such an issue. Rather like the "relatives" for hire available outside marriage registrar's offices to act as "witnesses" for registering marriages. The registrar probably recognizes a few of them by name from seeing them routinely marrying off so many "relatives", but is not expected to comment. Similarly, if getting a maid means putting a certain amount as her salary on paper, it is just "paperwork". So is an affidavit you need for getting your new government quota flat that says you don't have any other flat. Paperwork. And India is so used to this way of operating, that we do not see this as the kind of abuse of an Indian domestic worker that a domestic worker should be able to approach our consulate for help with instead of suffering at their hands.

India has even explained really well that we can't pay maids as per US standard, because that would make their salary on par with those they are serving. I am yet to understand how it is the US's problem if India pays consular officials "minimum wage". If the official being able to afford the wage is an issue, surely India can employ the domestic workers to care for their officials on duty? Surely this is an issue to raise BEFORE committing to paying a rate that is on par with the US minimum wage in the visa forms? Something like "Please respect the Indian tradition of keeping the domestic labour underpaid and poor and in their correct class."?

The real embarassment in this issue is the outrageous sense of entitlement of our political class that Indian officials breaking laws are somehow immune to US justice. It is an embarassing confession of how India runs that we are putting diplomatic pressure on the State Government to reverse the actions of their law enforcement. A law enforcement that makes it clear that Devyani Khobragade's immunity does not extend to her actions beyond her role as a consular official as per the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

While no one would dispute that US law enforcement is routinely disproportionate (and sometimes more shocking than the crime it fights), it can hardly be argued that law enforcement acted with any special malice for Devyani. By all indications, she went through the normal "humiliation" of an arrest in the US. I am not even going to pretend to know why someone accused of lying about babysitter's payment on a visa form needs to be strip searched, but the fact remains that like in India "normal process" is for politicians to pull police strings and have a say in whether and how high profile people get arrested, "normal process" in the US is a police force bloated on its own sense of authority and procedure.

What is sad in this story is that a domestic worker being paid below minimum wage by the one place she could approach for help if mistreated in a foreign land is, as usual, NOT a story.