The despicable treatment...
The very thought about having to undergo a strip search and cavity search by the law enforcement agencies or outlaws, does not matter if it is in a foreign land or at a native place, the faintest imagination of such a horrific experience sends shiver down the spine; it hurts the soul if you are innocent or if the offense is not in proportion to the humiliation or harassment one is meted out with. No amount of criticism of the American law enforcement machineries, lawmakers, lawyers and more especially, the western media, who post facto, are as insensitive as the museum kept shingles of some dead civilisations, are still throwing volleys of their pretentious defence of that insidious police act, will be enough. But what hurts most is to see our fellow Indian born Americans holding plum positions coming on our television screen via the debates on Indian news channels to put the blame squarely on Devyani Khobragade instead, focusing on the charges leveled against her which is not paying her maid as per the contract. In other words they, who include Lord Meghnad and one bearded gentleman I did not care to know who he was on a national TV channel, wanted us to convince that the humiliated deputy consul deserved the hell she had been through in USA that fateful day.
The whole of the western media, prominently being the New Yorker, Washington Post and LA Times, are scathing in their criticism of our sentimental association with Khobragade. They say we are overreacting and rather siding with the accused. Lord Meghnad would have us take an introspective look at the way we treat our domestic servants instead, while taking an official sort of lead in voicing what their press and people say because of his special standing in the western legislative circle. Perhaps, it needs a little anecdote to hold the mirror onto the savagely civilised mindset of all those who are justifying the treatment meted out to the hapless diplomat that day. There is something called average mob mentality that is pagan, which even our people are not spared from. It believes in only one punishment for all crimes. If it is beating, then it is beating all the way, and if it means murder, then it is killing as a retribution, does not matter what petty crime the victim has committed. Instances of such heinous incidents have been seen in our streets and theirs as well.
William Shakespeare in one single line fixed the responsibility for the ordeal of King Lear. Yes, even if, the maid’s version comes out to be true, Devyani would still be more sinned against than sinning. For sure. Back to that anecdote. There was a small pilferage from the rice stocks in a Godown in a village. A poor Indian village of course. And the rice was the subsidised stuff for the poor. The villagers were very angry and they wanted to punish the culprits. The law caught the pilferers, but then they were freed on bail. The villagers were angrier still, accusing the district magistrate of leniency. The DM explained that there were courses the law must take and the punishments are always proportionate to the degree of offense. You cannot simply hang or keep someone in jail for life term for pilfering shamelessly what is meant for the poor. But then the people were not satisfied and they called the officer siding with the offenders. The western press is as unconvinced as those simple villagers who are right in their own way, but nevertheless grossly wrong for obvious reason.
Take this in the same breath. Was the strip search justified for a charge that is yet to be proved? If they have this as a standard procedure when they detain or arrest someone, then they should be ashamed of their standard procedure. What if the charges are proved false, the emotional scar which their standard procedure has incurred on a dignified woman will still be there with her for a life time. But then, the western media and the public would never be able to realise our hurt even if they try. Perhaps it is the cultural gap. Perhaps Twain was right when he said that east and west would never meet stuff.
Yes, there is a great gulf fixed between the two directions with regard to their understanding of honouring the body. The western media should know that in any case, the maid’s loss can be financially recuperated, but the emotional hurt of our deputy consul is beyond repair. Even if you reluctantly apologise Uncle Sam.
The author works with the Information and Public relations department of Odisha