10 January, 2014

Will the Indian government do the Right Thing in India?

Gharelu Kaamgar Sangathana, Haryana welcomes the indictment, of Devyani Khobragade by the grand jury in the United States on two counts – that of visa fraud, and of making false statements in connection with the visa application of her Indian domestic worker Sangeeta Richard. The indictment symbolises that no one is above the law, and represents a historic victory for workers’ rights in the United States. It is also heartening to note that the indictment takes a very serious note of the harassment and intimidation faced by the Richard family in India from the Khobragade family when Sangeeta Richard tried to initiate charges against her.

GKS and advocates of domestic workers’ rights are dismayed by the Indian government’s pursuit and the ultimate granting of diplomatic immunity to Devyani Khobragade, a move that only serves to protect Indian employers who violate labour rights and human rights. GKS condemns the humiliating treatment of Ms. Khobragade during her arrest – however, the immunity conveniently sought later highlights only the continuing denial of domestic workers’ human rights by the Indian government everywhere.  However, the indictment and the qualified immunity that Ms. Khobragade has been given show that immunity does not equal impunity.

Gharelu Kaamgar Sangathana, Haryana revealed in the Press Release on January 9, 2014 about its first hand knowledge of the police harassment and intimidation the Richard family were facing in Gurgaon from the Khobragade family and in particular Mr. Uttam Khobragade. The intimidation has been of an extreme nature and had deeply affected the family. The harassment was meant to coerce Sangeeta Richard to withdraw her complaints and retaliate against her for raising her voice. The Richard family faced constant harassment by the police officials who were being sent by the Khobragade family. The police also took Mr. Richard and his son to the police station a few times, kept them there for hours, pressuring them to tell Ms. Richard to return. According to Ms. Retu Singh, lawyer and activist with GKS, Haryana, “I could sense the terrified state the family was in every time I spoke with them. Mr. Philip Richard has called me several times late at night, reporting about the police harassment and intimidation they were facing”. She narrated an incident wherein Mr. Richard called her from the police station for help, and as she tried speaking to the officials, they threw the phone away, refusing to listen to her.  “The police would enter the Richard house, on the grounds that they had orders from above, but when we asked them, they could never show us anything in written”, says Ms. Singh.

We express our strong outrage at the complete lack of recognition by the Indian government to this mental trauma and torture faced by the Richard family, which ultimately led them to flee their home country. We condemn the Indian state’s failure to provide any legal protection to the Richard family when they were in India and counter-accusing them of conspiracy.

We once again applaud the indictment for taking a human rights position, and reminding us about the need to stand up for the most fundamental principles of equality and dignity, even in the face of immense diplomatic backlash.

We demand that the Indian government

1)    prosecute the relevant parties of the Khobragade family and the law enforcement officers who terrorized the Richards family in Gurgaon, India so much that they had to flee India.

2)    pass Comprehensive Legislation for domestic workers’ protection

3)    ratify ILO Convention 189, Domestic Workers Convention 2011

Anannya Bhattacharjee
Gharelu Kaamgar Sangathana, Haryana
New Trade Union Initiative Executive Council Member
Retu Singh
Gharelu Kaamgar Sangathan, Haryana


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