Domestic help sues Indian official, files slavery charges
An Indian Government official, responsible for championing women's rights, has been accused of illegally sneaking in an underage girl into the country to serve as a personal slave for the family.Updated: Jul 04, 2010 14:54 IST
An Indian Government official, responsible for championing women's rights, has been accused of illegally sneaking in an underage girl into the country to serve as a personal slave for the family.
According to the New York Post, Neena Malhotra and husband Jogesh allegedly forced the girl to sleep on the floor of their apartment inside the Indian Mission to the United Nations in between waiting on them hand-and-foot 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
Shanti Gurung, now 21, who filed the suit, claims her drudgery included giving daily massages to her evil mistress, who ironically headed a 2008 initiative against domestic abuse while serving as a Manhattan-based consul responsible for "women-related issues."
Gurung also handled cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands and chores - often until 3 am following frequent parties in the couple's East 43rd Street home, her suit says.
The Manhattan federal court filing - which seeks unspecified damages for three-plus years of "slavery and peonage" - says the well-fed Malhotras starved Gurung, with Neena Malhotra once berating her for eating a slice of bread without permission.
"On another occasion, when Gurung asked the defendants for rice, they refused," the suit says. The couple, who "often yelled at and physically threatened Gurung for the most miniscule of reasons", even loaned her for 45 days to a family in California that subjected her to similar abuse, the suit says. "This is a horrific story, like something from the Middle Ages," said Gurung's lawyer, Mitchell Karlan. Gurung, who has only an eighth-grade education, claims the couple tricked her into accompanying them to America in March 2006 with the promise of 5,000 Indian rupees - about 108 dollars a month, with raises every six months.
But she only received a single payment of 5,500 rupees - about $120 - and was threatened that "if she ever tried to leave, the police would beat and arrest her.
Gurung - who was 17 when her "involuntary servitude" began - also says the Malhotras made her lie to US immigration officials about her age and a purported 7- dollars-an-hour salary in order to get her a visa.
She finally escaped their house of horrors in July 2009, fleeing while they were out of the apartment "to the home of a young woman she managed to meet when she went shopping for the defendants."
Neena Malhotra and her husband, an engineer, have since returned to India, where Neena Malhotra currently works for the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi.