By blaming the victim for their problems, we comfort ourselves into feeling that the world isn't random. That bad things don't happen to good people. It's taken to an extreme with the popular concept of

By blaming the victim for their problems, we comfort ourselves into feeling that the world isn't random. That bad things don't happen to good people. It's taken to an extreme with the popular concept of "karma"

Why Do We Indians Blame the Victim?

The Khobragade episode has exposed our priorities. In our eagerness to defend the so-called “honor of our nation”, most people seem to have forgotten that Devyani’s arrest was not due to a victimless crime. If there is to be any focus on this case, in my opinion it should be centered on getting justice for the maid who was promised a salary and then deprived of it. Protestations that she couldn’t afford to pay her $4500 etc are utterly hollow. If you can’t afford a maid, don’t keep a maid. And if you promise to pay someone, don’t follow up on that contract and get caught doing so, don’t come crying to the people of India to protect you.

Or maybe she should. Devyani might have realized that we love to blame the victim. The existence of the phenomenon is not in doubt. What is interesting is why do people think like this? It’s not logical, not rational. There’s no provision in our legal code to lay blame and no provision of law says that we have to dissect the reasons that led up to a particular crime (unless of course, the crime itself is defined in such terms). A rape is a rape. It doesn’t matter why. Underpaying a maid is underpaying a maid. It doesn’t matter why. Keep your reasons and justifications to yourself. The law is blind.

One can make a compelling exception in the case of victimless crimes. Where no one is hurt and no one is worse off for the “crime” being committed. In which case, the law itself needs to be brought in line. Just like Section 377 needs to be knocked off. But what about when someone is hurt?

Break Law => Jail

Does this simple equation need any further explanation? Any amendment? Any intervention? No. So what’s the reason behind victim blaming?

In my opinion, people blame the victim because it gives them an illusion that things are in their control. A world where the victim is not at fault is a world where anything can happen for no reason. There’s nothing you can do about it. No action you can take to protect yourself. No cause, no one to blame. Just random events. And that’s a world out of control. A terrifying universe where bad things happen to innocent people. How can “god” allow it to happen? It opens up a whole can of worms which religion and civilization have kept shut for most of our lives.

Much easier to put the blame on the victim and say that bad things happening to them is their own fault. Because the alternative is too scary to contemplate.

This probably resonates even more strongly in the Indian psyche with the concept of karma. If bad stuff happens to an obviously blameless victim (like a baby), they must have done something wrong in their previous life! What a wonderful concept! In one stroke it resolves all existential issues and gives a nice basis for explaining the unexplained. A perfect substitute for random chance. Of course, one that is completely unverifiable. But that’s actually a strength since it can’t be disproved either.

Plus of course it ties in nicely with the soothing notion of reincarnation that is tailor made to reassure us about our impending death. It’s actually quite an ingenious construct. No wonder the idea of victim blaming is found throughout the world, and not just in India. Even in the Christianity we have examples of god cursing (or blessing) not just the sinner, but their future generations as well. Divine justice it seems is hardly “just” at all. But that’s no obstacle when god is a priori “good”.

Unfortunately this particular illusion impedes the course of justice – particularly when judges themselves are affected by their own illusions. Isn’t it time we moved past this to a more mature outlook? Let’s start by placing the blame for a crime squarely on the person responsible – the criminal. Leave the victim alone.

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Comments

  1. Biswarup Ray says

    I don’t know what is considered as a more “mature outlook”;
    http://www.spiritual-short-stories.com/spiritual-short-story-246-Rule+of+Lao+Tzu.html

    Reply

    • In reply to Biswarup Ray

      Ugh. Clearly that story was told in a place where a written code of justice was unavailable.

      I would consider a “mature” outlook as one which is aware of our propensities for deceiving ourselves and realizing that our urge for victim blaming is in response to a need to make sense of a random world.

      Reply

  2. A few things to clarify abt the actual chronology of events in the Kobragade case before u draw conclusions as to who the criminal is and who is the victim here….

    Mrs.Sangitha Richards is an educated malayalee lady, her husband workd fr the Indian embassy in Mozambique, Mom-inlaw workd as house maid also in a diplomats house abroad. So she already knows the protocol of diplomats employing house maids and the pay patterns..!! Wen approached fr the specific job as a house maid she voluntarily opted fr it though she cd gt a secretarial job with her qualifications if she chose to…(this i quote frm ysterday’s news channel interview of an Indian official in US who ws aquainted with both Devyani and Sangitha) But as per her mom-inlaws statement she very badly wanted to go to US and settle down ther…. hence she CHOSE to take up ths job aware f the double deal regarding actual payment in Rs amounting to Rs.25000 and Rs.5000 as overtime plus food and stay provided fr free.(Unlike in the US food and stay r not necessarily provided by the employers; also sangitha never had to pay any bills fr her self sustenance ther ) And she ws told she is signing the other paper jus fr visa processing fr US to suit their local labor laws. If she thot that ws not right she cd hav voiced it right ther and not accept the offer…..she had a choice….!!!!
    I do hav frndz in the Gulf who hav taken in house maids with them from India as their sponsors but they dont let the maid keep her own passport and visa papers; it is always with the sponsors fr their own security. unlike in Sangitha’s case she was allowed to keep her passport and other documents and allowed to move around …(that involves a lot of trust) and she ws provided a 2 room quatress fr hrself…..as found in one of her mails stating that she likes it with the kobragades, the kidz treat her with respect and devyani’s husband allows her to rest enuf and take care of kidz wen ever he is home…… etc…!!! With all this as evidence it is only common sense to understand that Sangitha was selfish in taking her case to the US based NGO that takes up causes of the harassed maids…jus so that she cd use ths opportunity to gain sympathy with locals and gain footage to migrate permanently lock-stock and barrel……her entire family has been airlifted with the help of the US diplomats in India using their special tax free ticketing facility!! Even if she thot it ws unfair that she dsnt gt paid as much as the locals she cd hav struck work and askd to be sent home ……bt she chose to take legal action on a woman ……to be taken in to jail and undergo cavity search…!!!

    Now……The US Govt that is normally very skeptical about their visa allocations ……they literally drive ppl crazy rejecting many fr no obvious reasons….. even if it is fr a holiday……or suddenly come up with random selection @ airports to harass VIPs frm India including Abdul Kalam, SRK etc….y hv they become so over protective about ths house maid and her family risking the wrath of an entire nation on the issue…..granting protection to her entire family..instead they cd hav said this persons visa is revoked coz her job papers are inappropriate and deport her…..as they do in the Gulf if such a thing happen…???!!! Y do they want to protect hr tho she is an Indian citizen and not of US….???!!!

    Eager to know facts…!!!

    Reply

    • In reply to suneetha

      These might be valid points…they might not. A full recounting of the incident is for a judge to decide. It’s unlikely that sitting here, either you or I would be able to find out the truth.

      My point is…does it matter? Why can’t we just accept that a law was broken and that the person who broke the law needs to go to jail? In other words,

      Break law => Jail

      Do we really care about anything else?

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        The maid in question has been absconding since June 2013. If she had underpayment issues, she could have brought it to the notice of the Indian government or even to the US government. But she decided to abscond. This was reported to the US authorities immediately by the Indian diplomat. But no case was filed. Strange how the US authorities didn’t try to search for a missing foreigner. Also, was it within the law by the maid to go absconding from her work without notice, and then blackmail her employer to sign a 566 form and convert her government visa to a normal visa? Didn’t the maid break any laws?

        Maybe the maid still didn’t break any laws because Break law => Jail only applies to US preferences in choosing the victim and the accused.

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        Whether or not the maid broke the law is for the judge and the authorities to determine. Why are you asking someone like me? :)

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        I’m asking you because you don’t apply the same logic to the treatment towards the diplomat. You have already judged her to be the culprit instead of the judge or authorities doing so.

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        The maid hasn’t been arrested. The diplomat has been arrested. So all things being equal I will obviously look at the diplomat first and not the maid!

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        How can all things be equal when one of the persons involved hasn’t even been arrested? In a dispute between two parties just because only one of them has been arrested how does it automatically make a culprit out of one while term the other innocent?

        And the point to be emphasized in this case is that all the while the US authorities have been in touch with the maid but never even tried to put her through the same ‘standard procedures’ as were meted out to the diplomat let alone try to arrest her. In fact they have already adjudged the maid as the innocent victim.

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        If she hasn’t been arrested, I assume there is a reason for it in the absence of further information. I may be wrong, but I choose to trust that the law enforcement agencies knew what they were doing. Of course we can’t be sure till the judge pronounces a verdict, but then by that logic we should never discuss any case till a final verdict is pronounced. All we have to go by is the public statements made no?

        Reply

  3. ” Why can’t we just accept that a law was broken and that the person who broke the law needs to go to jail? In other words,

    Break law => Jail”

    It is not that simple. She was more than an ordinary lawbreaker, she was a diplomat – a ‘sovereign’ representative as per the law. Even if we ignore the fact that she was subjected to arrest, seizure and strip search in contravention of s41 of Vienna Conventions – it goes against the customs of diplomatic reciprocity, as is usually practiced by the United States.
     
    I have known cases where ordinary Russian diplomats got off the breathalyser tests in the US, after they were caught rash driving, in New York. Hell, even the Chinese diplomats are considered ‘respectable’ enough to be accorded this status. The issue in this case is not that Khobragade is above the law, or that the US shouldn’t subject an Indian to due process. The issue is that the NYPD clearly thinks Indians are less dignified than other countries, which is why they treated an Indian diplomat in a way they wouldn’t dare to treat a country which has a backbone.
     
    The Indian reaction is completely justified, in fact, a tad bit mild for the insult meted out. If you had friends in the diplomatic and foreign policy circles, you’d know that even Latin American countries like Venezuela and Poland have very strict and responsive tit-for-tat protocols to make sure their sovereign personnell are respected.

    Reply

    • In reply to Akhim Lyngdoh

      I’m sure we can make a case for US hypocrisy. In fact, I’m sure the case is a pretty good one! But is that the real reason for outrage? Suppose for example the punishing country was not a hypocrite. Would the outrage have been any less?

      In my opinion quite apart from the US being a hypocrite, we Indians should have first and foremost directed our outrage at the diplomat who knowingly broke the law of the host country. Whether or not the US took action, I believe that we ourselves should have taken action even if the US was willing to ignore it! To bring justice for the maid which I believe should be our first priority.

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        “I’m sure we can make a case for US hypocrisy. In fact, I’m sure the case is a pretty good one! But is that the real reason for outrage?”

        Every person’s reaction to a situation is their own – based on their own motivations, perspectives and perceptions. Every reason for outrage is as REAL as the other. No offence, but it is presumptous to decide why others are outraged, based on your own limited cognitive framework. If people who run online blogs took off their geek hats for a while, they’d have understood the complexities and dynamism of human social thought, behaviour and motivations – we’d have far less people trying to bulldoze their opinions as the ‘real’ ones.
         

        “Suppose for example the punishing country was not a hypocrite. Would the outrage have been any less?”

        Without such an event actually preceding and without having studied such a scenario, we don’t really know. It would be really self-serving to sow the seeds of confirmation bias, if you assume that Indians would be less (or more) outraged in a hypothetical eventuality that didn’t really exist.
         

        “In my opinion quite apart from the US being a hypocrite, we Indians should have first and foremost directed our outrage at the diplomat who knowingly broke the law of the host country.”

        If you want to be more outraged about a bad impression created by a fellow Indian in your host country, feel free to. However, it is not you – or any other person to tell Indians as a whole, what they SHOULD be outraged at.
         
        I chose to be irked at it because I see this act as an act of gross hypocrisy and a violation of the diplomatic rights of a sovereign country. I was equally peeved when Britain tried to bulldoze its way with Russians during the Litvinenko incident; or when one of my girlfriends reflected how Polish expats were treated by mainstream Britons. I don’t hold an unquestioning adoration for any country or its legal system – even if the preamble in my passport says I’m ‘supposed’ to.
         

        “To bring justice for the maid which I believe should be our first priority.”

        On the scale of priorities on things to be outraged about, a labour dispute between a bunch of individuals over the ‘ideal salary’ scores far less than the breach of diplomatic protocols and the violation of the sovereign rights of a country. The victim of this diplomatic violation is not the maid, but the Union of India.

        Reply

      • In reply to Akhim Lyngdoh

        we’d have far less people trying to bulldoze their opinions as the ‘real’ ones.

        In this case, one need not resort to guesswork as to their reasons for outrage since many opinion pieces and blog comments are pretty open about their feelings. My observations about why people are upset is merely based on what I see people talking about.

        I enjoy hypothetical scenarios and I enjoy predicting how people will feel. It’s fun.

        However, it is not you – or any other person to tell Indians as a whole, what they SHOULD be outraged at.

        Sure, I can tell people anything! It’s my opinion and I feel that this is what they should be outraged at.

        a labour dispute between a bunch of individuals over the ‘ideal salary’

        To my knowledge, this is less a dispute about the “ideal salary” and more of a breach of contract. Since I’m not patriotic and don’t care about India’s so called “honor”, that is irrelevant to me.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        “To my knowledge, this is less a dispute about the “ideal salary” and more of a breach of contract.” A breach of contract is an even weaker case for arrest, seizure, stripping and detention – from an ethical point of view, even if a particular legal system accomodates it.Also, breaking laws = jail is way too simplistic.For one, we don’t really know whether she broke the laws in this case, it depends on the facts of the case, the actual laws involved and whether these laws covered the jurisdiction of where the ‘offence’ occured. If for example, I slap an American national inside the compounds of the Indian Embassy in Washington – I can’t be charged with assault or any other offence under US laws.  Second, not every breach of law carries a jail term OR in other cases, justifies it.

        Reply

      • In reply to Akhim Lyngdoh

        Exactly! NOT EVERY case of breach of law carries a jail term. It is absurd to further go on and strip search a person for all types of offenses.

        Reply

      • In reply to Akhim Lyngdoh

        If Devyani was illegally treated, I have no doubt she will sue the police force or whoever is responsible and get hundreds of thousands of dollars (maybe millions, who knows) in compensation. She can pursue her case with all the resources of the Indian government behind her. This is one aspect I’m not really worried about!

        Reply

  4. Bhagwad,
    Contrary to what I usually find in your blogs, this one seems to be biased. We do not know the victim here. That is the crux of the matter. Neither are all the maids are innocent, nor are all employers gracious, always. I personally do not like this minimum wage law, which has been proved to be a bane for the really downtrodden. But, that is not the discussion here, and I put this here deliberately to indicate how side-tracking an issue would be.
    Till U.S courts decide the matter one-way or the other, we need to treat both as aggrieved parties.
    So, the question currently is, and always has been, is U.S justified in arresting a diplomat over this charge. Diplomats, like normal citizens, can break the law, and like normal citizens are susceptible to be charged unfairly. On what charges can a government arrest foreign government officials – This is a serious discussion.
    Our diplomat approached U.S authorities first on this case almost an year ago. The case is still in our courts and a High Court has an injunction in favor of our diplomat. So, it is not like U.S authorities suddenly found out about this case, like a murder, and arrested the suspect on fear or escape. And, when our diplomat is willingly fighting this case, is U.S justified in arresting the diplomat without prior notice or information to our consulate?
    While, I definitely would sympathize with the maid, in case she is the victim, the smaller issue here is that of a person’s libel, and the larger issue is that of a nation’s high-handedness and breaking of protocol.

    Reply

    • In reply to Murali

      I agree, that the facts of the case need to be formally determined by US law. Innocent until proven guilty after all.

      Though I admit that I have never been a patriotic person, so I have great difficulty in feeling “outraged” over this. Having said that, we often discuss cases based on what we think is true so far. Like we were all outraged over the Dec 16th gangrape case well before the court pronounced its verdict. For sure, some new facts may emerge in the course of the proceedings, but for the moment it’s very interesting to see people’s reactions on the basis of what they think might be true.

      We can derive quite a lot of information about the way people think by seeing how they respond to what they believe is true no?

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        I totally agree. Media seems to be driving our collective emotions, be it either outrage or euphoria. It is lot more scarier when people get swayed by these, and demand things just by these opinions rather than by rationale.The ills of these bad decisions will be equally catastrophic to those bound by patriotism, as to those free of it. 

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Apologies for changing the subject in my previous reply. That is a case to your point, that no matter what you say your audience will listen to only what they’re capable of living with. “Blaming the victim” may be our limitation.

        Reply

  5. Having said that, I can emphatise with the NRI outrage *against* the hype over Devyani incident. The average NRI is a middle class bloke or lass, who had to practically earn his/her right to live in the US OR to get any perk that they are entitled to – while all the while, living under the shadow of the indignity of being an economic immigrant from a third world country. At every step, they swear their allegiance to the US socio-cultural value system, the so called progressiveness and superiority of the American ideal, to prove that they are above the ‘lesser’ Indians – those third world emigres from whose chaotic land they came from. They become selectively blind to every negative aspect of the American reality (as opposed to the American ‘dream’), as an token to appreciation to their host. They denigrade every aspect of their homeland – to show their solidarity with patriotic Americans.
     
    Now picture in a lady from India, appointed by the Indian government, ostensibly because of her pedigreed political connections (rather than merit). No burning the midnight oil to get into an IIT or medical college. No suffering four years of painful involuntary celibacy at an engineering or medical college, to earn that coveted scholarship or H1B to the US. She, to them, is a product of the same nepotism and political skullduggery that they believe is the cause for the country’s ills – the very reason they have to line up and tolerate the indignities of the whole visa process that an immigration to the US entails.
     
    Now she lives the life of a diplomatic consul in the United States, a life of style, power and dignity that is not afforded to the meritorious and hard working NRIs – who live like law abiding Gandhian puppies. One day, karma pays back. She breaks a law in the US and is seized, arrested and stripped against her will. Bravo! God bless America! However, the euphoria is short lived – to be replaced by the moral indignation when the spotlight of the media is on how the US did a wrong – by violating her diplomatic credentials. The Indian media and public outrage didn’t make sense. How dare they invoke diplomatic rights, it is so grossly unfair! What do think they are, above the law? Even we are not above it, why should this pesky woman who got a plum IFS posting deserve THAT consideration?
     
    However, the average indignant NRI finds no way to articulate their envy and jealousy without sounding lame – so they focus on the object of their moral indignation – the apparent crime against the maid. Attack Devyani, attack the Indian government and its outrage over the arrest – all in the name of justice for this poor, helpless MAID. How dare the politicise the issue?
     
    As Frederich Nietzsche puts it, “There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as moral indignation, which permits envy or hate to be acted under the guise of virtue’.

    Reply

    • In reply to Akhim Lyngdoh

      I’m not sure where the “NRI outrage” is played out. All I see is outrage in general. I haven’t bothered to look at whether the people are NRIs or not. I’m certainly not an NRI. I live firmly in India.

      You’re entitled to your opinions regarding the “true cause” of moral outrage. I’m entitled to mine. We’ve both said what we have to say. Now what more is there?

      Reply

  6. I think people have missed the point of this post – our propensity to blame the victim. 

    Reply

    • In reply to Sraboney

      And I think the very basis of this post is flawed. That of assuming that there is only one victim and only one culprit in this case even before it has been dealt with through the judicial process.

      Reply

    • In reply to Sraboney

      “That of assuming that there is only one victim and only one culprit in this case even before it has been dealt with through the judicial process.”
      It is the obsession of one type of victimhood over another, that fosters a culture of victim-blaming.

      Scenario A: Devyani shortchanged the maid, the maid is the victim.
      Scenario B: Devyani was (wo)manhandled by the police like a felon, she was victimised.

      If someone wants to focus on the latter because the former seems to have been taken care of on a level, it isn’t ‘blaming the victim’. If on the other hand, when someone chooses to justify the treatment of the victim in the latter scenario, because she apparently enjoyed a corrupt lifestyle, it is textbook victim blaming. If we look at it objectively, Sraboney’s purview is not very different from the warped purview of a rape apologist.

      Reply

      • In reply to Akhim Lyngdoh

        I don’t think anyone is saying she was manhandled (at least no more than anyone else is manhandled). Or are they?

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        She WAS manhandled, even if the laws in the United States deem it acceptable to treat someone that way.
         
        1) Stripping someone against their will, for a misdemenour is an assault against the dignity and bodily security of an individual.
         
        2) Stripping someone against their will is NOT less of a violation of one’s rights if it is done by someone of the same sex. Such a notion is completely absurd and feudal (or patriarchial, as some would use the term).
         
        3) The law is subject to good ethical conduct and just because the US legislators or the judiciary see no problem with such a gross violation of human rights, doesn’t make it any less so.
         
        4) Just because some desi Indians are in awe of the US and impressed with the way things work there (as opposed to how it is in India), doesn’t make the US system above the basic tenets of human and just conduct. Barely 50 years ago, inter-racial marriages were a crime in the United States. Abortion is still up for debate. Institutional racism and sexism in politics and the justice system of the United States is still a norm rather than exception.
         
        5) Victimhood is not a competition, there is not a single ‘winner’ in the Oppression Olympics who gets the ‘Medal of Victimhood’. There can be more than one victim in a single context, with across different contexts.

        Reply

      • In reply to Akhim Lyngdoh

        I agree, these points can be debated. However, Devyani cannot complain that she was discriminated against. If she feels she was manhandled, then she has to admit that every citizen in the US is manhandled. We can have the argument about whether or not the practice in general is wrong (and I agree that can be a good debate) some other time.

        For the moment though, she was simply treated in the same way as everyone else.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        In other words, for example, if a female US diplomat posted in Saudi Arabia decides to drive a car and is thus arrested while doing the same and then is sentenced to ten lashes by whip for driving, should we expect you to favor that as well on the grounds that after all, she wasn’t discriminated against as all women who are found driving in Saudi Arabia have to face the same treatment?

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      • In reply to Kamal

        Well, given that even common women in Saudi aren’t regularly subjected to ten lashes randomly, it’s hardly a sentence handed down to everyone. So yeah, I would call that discriminatory. But to your larger point, no it wouldn’t be discriminatory.

        But also, you’re drawing a false equivalence between a professional strip search and lashes. While there is no doubt some controversy over the former, it’s nowhere near as universally condemned as lashes. In fact, this seems to be a persistent theme in your previous arguments as well where you try and over emphasize the barbarity of strip searches. I’m not sure, but didn’t you say that it was banned in several US states earlier? I had asked you to give me some examples and I don’t think you got back to me on that.

        In short, you’re drawing a false equivalence between strip searches and lashes. The two cannot be compared.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        “While there is no doubt some controversy over the former, it’s nowhere near as universally condemned as lashes. ”
        Universally condemned? You are aware that there are civilised, democratic developed countries where judiciary sentences people to corporal punishments, right?
         
        Kamal’s comparison here is apt and fair, both lashes and strip searching are equivalent forms of assault and violation of human rights, even if they are deemed legal by their respective justice systems. Saying that one is ‘universally condemned’ while another is not, without any citations AND because you don’t find strip searching as offensive doesn’t make an argument. It simply reinforces the contention that you are prejudices on the issue – you want to oppose the Indian stance on the issue because you think whatever the US does is morally justifiable.

        Reply

      • In reply to Akhim Lyngdoh

        This is obviously a matter of opinion. I obviously feel that strip searches and lashes are nowhere in the same vicinity. Especially since a strip search isn’t punitive but just a routine measure meant to secure the safety of a prison. Your opinion might be different, but I’m reasonably certain that the overwhelming majority of people would agree with me that they would rather be strip searched 20 times rather than face lashes!

        And obviously that has nothing to do with the US.

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      • In reply to bhagwad

        “Finally, I didn’t say that people would prefer to be strip searched in general. I simply said they would prefer it to lashes.”
        Thats an apples or potatoes comparison. Lashes are meted out as a *penalty* after someone has been *convicted* of an offence. A *punishment*. Strip searching is done on someone who has been accused, which in normal criminal jurisprudence implies *innocence* unless the guilt has been *proved* in a court of law. Of course, most criminals would prefer being stripped to being lashed, a sentence of being stripped is far less punishing than getting your butts bled with a 21 inch rattan cane.

        When Michael Fay, an American citizen got sentenced to 4 canings in Singapore, the penalty was according to Singapore laws and he was proved guilty by the evidence laws in Singapore. However, the US still threw a hissy fit over it and even went on to make it an international diplomatic conflict.

        –> http://www.nytimes.com/1994/06/26/us/us-student-tells-of-pain-of-his-caning-in-singapore.html

        Given that most countries that care more than a pennyworth for their citizens DO raise a diplomatic fit over a violation of their citizens’ human rights, no matter how ‘legal’ that violation might be in the context of the laws of another country, I don’t see whats wrong with Indians demanding the same for an Indian diplomat. In fact, I am glad it happened, and I hope it is the first step that the Indian government and the public take the initiative to grow a set of diplomatic balls.

        Reply

      • In reply to Akhim Lyngdoh

        Well said Akhim. Strip search is done on a ‘suspect’. It is NOT a punishment. Whereas, lashings are a punishment. So obviously a criminal would opt for a strip search over lashings any day. Hope the author understands the difference now.

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      • In reply to Kamal

        If you look back at the comment history, it was you who had introduced the equivalence of strip searching and lashes. Hence my comment:

        Especially since a strip search isn’t punitive but just a routine measure meant to secure the safety of a prison.

        Now I’m the one who’s being accused of bringing them up?

        Reply

      • In reply to Akhim Lyngdoh

        Yes, the distinction hadn’t escaped me. In fact I’d even mentioned it in my previous comment. The only reason I’m talking about them is because the comparison was introduced and I’m trying to show they’re not equivalent.

        And I’m not surprised at all that the US threw a fit over lashes. If Devyani had been lashed “legally” in any country I would fully support any and all fits thrown by Indians over the barbaric punishment. That’s not surprising is it?

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      • In reply to bhagwad

        Again. I gave the example of ten lashes as a punishment specifically for driving. I never said it is randomly meted out to a common Saudi woman for no cause. And there have been cases where women have actually been subjected to lashing for driving in Saudi Arabia.

        Just cut out the lashing bit since you are so hung up with it being incomparable to a strip search. Simply answer if you will support even the arrest of a female US diplomat for driving and being detained or imprisoned for the same? Because at least that is what every woman in Saudi is subjected to by law if she is found driving.

        As about the strip search ban in several US states, I came across this information through several articles after the recent issue. Iowa, New Jersey, Illinois, California, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, South Carolina etc are a few to name.

        And your reason for strip searches being a routine measure to secure the safety of a prison is absurd. Are the US prisons the highest priority locations in terms of security? If it is the question of security, then shouldn’t every person entering the white house be strip searched? If a place like the white house can do without strip searches, why do the prisons need to do it if it is not just to humiliate every convict?

        Its ok if that is just your opinion. But to be sure that a majority of people would prefer to be strip searched is simply weird.

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        “Simply answer if you will support even the arrest of a female US diplomat for driving and being detained or imprisoned for the same?”

        Oh of course I will support it! I mean I will protest about the restrictions on women driving in general, but I will not specifically protest about a US diplomat (or anyone else) being subjected to the laws of a country. Is that surprising?

        I did some searching and wasn’t able to find any US states that have banned strip searching. Can you forward those sources to me? I’m not saying you’re wrong, I just want to know.

        Presumably not everyone is allowed into the White House in the first place. Couple that with the fact that prisons are by definition far more likely to hold criminals in the first place and I don’t see how the White House and prisons can be compared!

        Finally, I didn’t say that people would prefer to be strip searched in general. I simply said they would prefer it to lashes. Again, I may be wrong but I feel reasonably confident that most people would choose as I do in this :)

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        I don’t know why you are so obsessed with comparing everything that you come across. The white house example was to signify the level of importance of threat and not the number of people or their criminal records who are entering it.

        Of course not everyone is allowed into the white house but what if only one person who is allowed access carries a dangerous item within a body cavity? Do you think that a threat to the president is lesser than a threat to a criminal locked up in a prison?

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        If you give analogies, you can hardly complain that I compare them! Isn’t that the purpose of analogies in the first place?

        As far as access to the president himself/herself goes, the security measures, background checking etc will obviously be significantly higher than access to the mere white house itself don’t you think? Anyone can go to prison without any vetting. Not everyone can see the president.

        I’m not a security expert, so obviously you need to take what I say with a pinch of salt. You can be damn sure however that they will take whatever measures necessary to eliminate even the smallest threat the president. If they don’t strip search people, it means they’re confident enough in their other protocols.

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        Here is the link which describes the confusion prevalent in the US judiciary about strip searches. – http://news.outlookindia.com/items.aspx?artid=821704

        And here is part of the text –

        “In April last year, the US Supreme Court ruled that officials could strip search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if authorities had no reason to suspect the presence of contraband.

        The Supreme Court verdict was a split one, as the decision was reached by a 5-to-4 vote. The court also refused to exempt even minor offenders from strip searches.

        Writing for the majority of the judges, Justice Anthony Kennedy said courts were in no position to second-guess the judgements of correctional officials who must consider the possibility of smuggled weapons and drugs and public health.

        “Every detainee who will be admitted to the general population (of jails) may be required to undergo a close visual inspection while undressed,” Kennedy wrote.

        The procedures endorsed by the majority judges are forbidden by statute in at least 10 American states and are at odds with policies of federal authorities, The New York Times had reported at the time of the ruling.

        New York, where Khobragade was arrested, has not banned strip searches.

        The Supreme Court’s ruling gave its ruling in the case of an African-American man from New Jersey, whose experiences had some parallels with the treatment meted out to Khobragade.

        In 2005, Albert Florence was in the passenger seat of his BMW when a state trooper pulled his wife over for speeding. A records search revealed an outstanding warrant for Florence’s arrest because of an unpaid fine.

        The information turned out to be wrong as Florence had paid the fine.

        Over a period of six days, Florence was taken to two jails and strip searched on entry though he was neither guilty of any criminal offense nor carrying any contraband.

        He said during the strip search, he was made to squat and cough. He termed the treatment meted out as “humiliating”. “It made me feel less than a man,” he said at the time.

        Though the Supreme Court ruling approved strip searches even in minor offences, the issue is still controversial in the US as some states have banned intrusive searches unless there is sufficient justification for it.

        According to a brief filed by the American Bar Association, international human rights treaties too ban such procedures.

        The federal appeals courts had been split on the question, though most of them prohibited strip searches unless they were based on reasonable suspicion that contraband was present.

        The Supreme Court did not say that strip searches of new arrestees were required. It ruled, rather, that the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches did not forbid them.

        Justice Stephen G Breyer, writing for the four judges who voted against the procedure, said strip searches were “a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy” and should be used only when there was good reason to do so.

        Breyer said the Fourth Amendment should be understood to bar strip searches of people arrested for minor offenses not involving drugs or violence, unless officials had a reasonable suspicion that they were carrying contraband.”

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        I’m not denying that strip searches have a certain degree of controversy. Rather, I have repeatedly said that I welcome a debate on its legitimacy in general. Instead, I’m saying two things:

        1. I read the references and have also scanned the PDF of the UN report. I’m not able to find (in 2013) any states that have banned it. I may be wrong of course, in which case I would gladly be corrected.

        2. Strip searches are nowhere near as controversial as examples given of lashes etc and so naturally my responses to the two acts will vary. This is hardly surprising no?

        3. If we’re going to protest against strip searches, then let us protest against strip searches in general. Not just for Devyani. Devyani has sufficient protections and the resources of the Indian government behind her and I’m not worried about her personally. Regular people have no such recourse and I am far more concerned about their rights being violated than a diplomat who everyone treats with kid gloves anyway.

        If Devyani has been wronged, I have no doubt that she will find justice eventually even if she sits and does nothing.

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        Didn’t you hear or read about security breaches in the white house in the past? Here’s a recent one – http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/11/26/dinner.whitehouse.crashers/index.html?eref=time_us

        What you are ignoring is that any amount of background check isn’t foolproof to prevent someone trying to do some damage. I guess you haven’t heard of moles. Or what if an otherwise completely clear individual goes insane and tries to harm the president? Do the white house security do a mental security check of visitors too? The point is, anyone can cause trouble if he is not properly checked before entry. And still they do not require a strip search.

        And what about airport security? Are the authorities at airports confident in their protocols to clear a person through security without a strip search? If even they don’t require people to strip, then why do the US prisons in such a dire need to strip people?

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        As I said, I’m not a security expert. I have no doubt that whoever is in charge of the President’s security will order a strip search or a cavity search if they think it necessary. The fact that they don’t means their threat assessment does not require it and I’m not going to argue with them!

        Comparing to airport security is once again a false equivalence because as mentioned earlier, the risk profile of the average person in prison is much higher than the average traveler. Not to mention that certain passengers are stripped searched after going through security cameras. That has been a cause for controversy as well of course.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        “I have no doubt that whoever is in charge of the President’s security will order a strip search or a cavity search if they think it necessary.”

        Exactly. The same “if necessary” logic has to be applied with people being arrested too. And the strip search of the Indian diplomat was NOT necessary.

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        The Indian diplomat was dropping her child to school when she was arrested. If the US authorities expected that she was carrying weapons/drugs/important papers hidden in her body cavities at that time, they can only be termed as insane.

        Just reciting ‘the norm’… ‘the norm’… logic in order to justify a strip search even when it is blatantly useless goes to show the lack of brains in the US authorities.

        Even strip searching a passenger boarding a flight still makes some sense. But strip searching someone accused of underpaying his employee is utterly insane. Do you agree?

        If you do, then we should have had a protest about that from you before this one. At least we could have had some comment against it from you. But you seem to be fine with the “norm for everyone” argument.

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        Surely you’re not suggesting a law saying something like “Women dropping their kids to school need not be stripped searched”. Or “Nice looking people who don’t look dangerous are exempt?

        At least we could have had some comment against it from you.

        Two separate issues. I repeat that I welcome a debate about strip searching in general and maybe one day I’ll write about it if I feel strongly regarding the issue. But since that is not the focus of my article, I’m ignoring it in these discussions.

        The fact that so far we’ve spent barely any time discussing the injustice to the maid herself merely underscores the main point of my post.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        “Surely you’re not suggesting a law saying something like “Women dropping their kids to school need not be stripped searched”. Or “Nice looking people who don’t look dangerous are exempt?”

        Ohh, so do you need to frame common sense into laws now?

        Do you mean to say that everyone in the US is subjected to the same procedures from arrest to interrogation?

        Did you get to know about the Boston bombings? The suspect Tsarnaev who had planted the bombs was initially suspected on the basis of various clues and hence hunted down. SWAT teams and the FBI were put into action to round him up. Now, do you think the american law says that so and so criminal needs to be handled with the use of armed forces?

        Common sense led to the deployment of armed forces to track down a suspected terrorist. By your logic, the diplomat should have been similarly surrounded by armored vehicles and troops and bomb squads etc. because the law and procedures is the same for everyone.

        I expect the police force in the US to be a bit more sensible than its leader saying something like – “Call in the bomb squads, the SWAT teams and the snipers. We can’t exempt this diplomat just because she is nice looking or doesn’t look dangerous.”

        Do SWAT teams need to be called in to round up someone who has parked his car in a no-parking zone? Then, would such a person need to be strip searched?

        It doesn’t look too clever to leave hold of all common sense just to uphold some stupid norms. It isn’t actually about the appearance of the suspect but the common sense about what a certain suspect may be capable of. If you still think that a person ‘suspected’ to have underpaid a maid to be carrying a bomb, then I have nothing more to say.

        Reply

      • In reply to Kamal

        It may have been necessary. It may have not been necessary. But if you have a law for everyone, then I’m not going to complain when it’s applied to a diplomat no matter how exalted.

        Reply

  7. Ok. If you have a problem with the diplomat complaining about the strip search AND you say that it is the norm for everyone, then why didn’t the US authorities didn’t dare even touch 49 Russian diplomats who were involved in Medicaid benefit frauds for over nine years?

    Even before this issue, two other Indian diplomats had ‘maid’ issues. But neither of them was strip searched. Why? Isn’t this discrimination?

    But instead of this discrimination talk, you are ignoring the bigger angle of conspiracy which has the maid in the center of things. US authorities are completely ignoring the offenses committed by her let alone find and arrest her. Why? The actual protest from India is about the shady conspiracy angle by the US, which is trying to highlight the diplomat by convicting her.

    Reply

    • In reply to Kamal

      So again, the hypocrisy of the US is an entirely separate issue altogether which I don’t want to get into at this moment since it diverts from the main point of my post.

      The “actual” protest is rooted in phrases like “She was placed along with common criminals” etc. As opposed to what?

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Actually, it is the hypocrisy of the US which has miffed India and has thus led to the protest. Something that got entirely lost on you and hence led to this article.

        Reply

  8. Godfrey Pereira says

    Of Indians and Justice – The Khobragade Affair:
    Guest Post by GODFREY PEREIRA first published by Kafila

    http://kafila.org/2014/01/05/of-indians-and-justice-the-khobragade-affair-godfrey-pereira/

    Edited to remove full text: Please don’t post entire articles!

    Reply

  9. Excellent post. The way so many people blamed Richards just shows a larger problem – how little they value domestic workers….

    Reply