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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Khobragade affair: Protests for Sangeeta Richard in New York; against US in Chennai

PTI  New York, December 21, 2013
First Published: 16:39 IST(21/12/2013) | Last Updated: 17:04 IST(21/12/2013)

As India and the US tried to defuse tensions that arose after the last week’s humiliating arrest and strip-search of its diplomat Devyani Khobragade, rights groups representing domestic workers in the US protested outside the Indian consulate demanding justice for the diplomat’s maid.

Khobragade was arrested on charges of lying on the visa documents for her maid Sangeeta Richard and paying her less than the stipulated minimum wages. The diplomat has been shifted to the UN Mission to shield her from prosecution.

The protesters said officials cannot use diplomatic immunity to "escape" accountability for their actions.

Nearly 50 people gathered outside the Indian Consulate building amid police presence shouted slogans like "what do we want— justice, when do we want it — now".

"They say diplomatic immunity, we say accountability", "they say protect the traffickers, we say protect the workers" and "diplomatic immunity has got to go".

The people also held banners and placards that read "I stand with Sangeeta".

Tiffany Williams, advocacy director for 'Break the Chain Campaign', said Khobragade was "clearly mistreated by US officers, but what about the abuse that migrant domestic workers live through every day."

Police detain a student during their protest march to American Consulate against the alleged ill-treatment meted out to Devyani Khobragade in the US. (PTI photo)

The National Domestic Workers Alliance led the hour-long demonstration on Friday, with participation from other groups like Safe Horizon, the victim assistance’ agency representing Richard, Damayan Migrant Workers Association and National Guestworker Alliance.

"We are calling for a fair trial and compensation for Richard. There is a larger issue here about diplomatic immunity and about how do we provide basic labour protections for all domestic workers not just in the US but globally as well," Yomara Velez of the National Domestic Workers Alliance told PTI.

The rights groups said Richard's case is not an isolated one but a "systemic problem" where diplomats usually "get away" in cases of exploitation and labour laws are not implemented for workers.

Left leaning students protest outside US consulate
About 50 activists of Democratic Youth Federation of India, a left-wing youth outfit, staged a demonstration in front of the US Consulate in Chennai on Saturday to protest the arrest of diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York.

Supporters of CPI scuffle with cops during a protest against Indian diplomat's arrest in US, near the American Center in New Delhi. (Reuters photo)

They raised slogans and held placards against the US government, condemning her arrest, police said.

"We condemn the arrest of Indian diplomat in the US. We demand that the Indian government send back US diplomats posted here," one of the activists said.

Police prevented them from proceeding closer to the US Consulate campus.

Congress activists led by K Selvaperunthagai had staged a similar protest earlier this week.

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