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‘Victimised’ help gets wave of support from Indian Americans

world Updated: Dec 21, 2013 23:43 IST
Yashwant Raj
Neera Tanden

Neera Tanden tweets often, and mostly about the Khobragade issue in the last few days. But these, as of those of most Indian-Americans, are not supportive of the Indian diplomat.

“I wish there was as much concern for Indians who are nannies, housemaids as Indians who are diplomats,” Tanden tweeted on Wednesday.

On Thursday, she continued: “Agree w (with) this NYT editorial on Indian diplomat & hope reporters, here and abroad, fanning the flames on this, read it.”

The New York Times basically argued that instead of feeling outraged by Khobragade’s arrest, Indians should be concerned about the injustice meted out to the housekeeper.

Tanden is an important voice in the Indian American community. She was a senior adviser to the president on health reforms, leaving the administration to head a think tank which was recently used by President Barack Obama to deliver a major policy speech.

Tanden is among a large number of Indian Americans who have taken up for the housekeeper, Sangeeta Richard. An Indian-American who avoided being named due to his contrarian position on the issue said, “They should have been sensitive to the cultural appropriateness of subjecting her to a strip-search,” he said, adding, “back where she comes from, it’s demeaning.” He insisted, though, that her treatment of the housekeeper was “unimaginable”.

Doing without domestic helps is a badge of honour for most Indian Americans, who take pride in telling relatives back home they do the dishes themselves.

“I have no doubt that if I hadn’t come to the US in my 20s, I, too, would have hired a maid,” wrote Ananya Bhattacharyya, a Washington-based writer in an oped in the New York Times on Friday. If expat Indians bring such habits to the US, they better be ready to be judged harshly for it. Richard, not Khobragade, is the victim for them.