Thursday 19 December 2013

Preet Bharara –‘Sheriff of Wall Street’ & Arrogant America

Is Preet Bharara following the letter of law in true spirit or is he trying to prove a point to the US masters that he spares no Indian? Preet is an American of Indian origin, hailing from Punjab, who guns for Indians in US and now became a household name with L’affaire Devyani Khobargade, the Indian diplomat.

Preet Bharara has prosecuted several Indians. He states: ‘We go after crime with a vengeance in a fair and appropriate way. It does not matter what their religion, race, nationality or name is.’ He has now charged India’s deputy Consul general in New York, Devyani Khobragade, with a visa fraud and exploiting the housekeeper. She was handcuffed, stripped, cavity searches conducted, DNA swabs taken, locked up with common criminals and drug addicts. Diplomatic immunity gives protection even in grave crimes. Consular immunity doesn’t. But if action is taken against Consular officer, it has to be done with due respect by reason of official position. This was flouted by the US.

Preet has a list of eminent Indians he has cracked down upon. His crackdown on insider trading resulted in a two-year jail sentence for ex-Mckinsey chief Rajat Gupta. Anil Kumar, also of McKinsey, and ex-intel Capital executive Rajiv Goel pleaded guilty in the same case. Preet Bharara also made former internet analyst Sandeep Agarwal plead guilty to providing inside information about a deal between Microsoft and Yahoo to a portfolio manager.

In a rare display of aggression, Indian government has hit back at US for humiliating the diplomat Devyani Khobragade. The government cancelled a host of privileges enjoyed by the American diplomatic and consular staff and cut security. This tit for tat response has made the ties between the world’s two largest democracies turn frosty. India has finally shown spine by a slew of retaliatory measures  against the US. This was in sharp contrast to its weak-kneed response to previous slights by the US – patting down of the former President Abdul Kalam twice on the same day during his visit to US and in India. He was frisked at New York’s JFK airport. In 2009, was frisked by staff of Continental Airlines at New Delhi airport.

Similar treatment was meted out to former central minister George Fernandes; George Fernandes was strip-searched twice in Dulles Airport when he was defence minister. Later US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage apologized. In 2009 actor John Abraham was detained at New York airport by FBI for having Afghanistan as a country visited on his passport. In September 2010, then Union Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel detained at a US airport over mistaken identity. A person with same name, date of birth was on US immigration watch list. In 2011, former Indian ambassador to the US, Meera Shankar was detained, body-searched by security officials at Jackson-Evers International Airport in Missisippi. India’s permanent Representative to UN Hardeep Puri was subjected to pat-down at Houston Airport in 2010 after Puri refused to take off his turban. Puri was then made to wait in the holding room. And the latest being the response to the phone tapping by the Americans of the Indian mission in Washington.

In August 2009, actor Shah Rukh Khan was detained for two hours at New jersey’s Newark International Airport, reportedly over his surname. Khan said, incident uncalled for and humiliating. Detained again in April 2012 at New York airport for hour-and-a-half. US embassy spokesman later apologized to him. Aamir Khan was strip searched and interrogated at Chicago airport when he visited the US in 2002. It appears there is a method to this madness. India has finally taken on arrogant America. This has been the strongest Indian action against US in years. Yes we want friendly bi-lateral relations with US, but with dignity, not at their terms. India is no banana republic.

Immediate was necessary or else other countries too might act in similar arrogance. There are instances of immigration staff in some European and Gulf countries acting rude with Indian tourists and visitors. A strong message need to be sent that their citizens could face the same treatment here with a pat-down from CISF personnel. Then they will realize what a pat-down or frisking means when their citizens are subjected to it.

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