Diplomat’s Strip Search Was Overboard, but So Was India’s Reaction

Our bad, India—but let’s get some perspective on the arrest.

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In India, perp-walking a diplomat into custody over a visa, or for mistreating the help, seems like a disproportionate response to a minor infraction. To an American, a strip search is an unpleasant ordeal that may occur if you run afoul of an overzealous TSA agent before your next flight. As someone who was born here to Indian parents, I can’t help but feel disgust at how this diplomat’s strip search has been characterized as a sexual assault, while rapes of other women in India frequently don’t even merit police attention.

It’s an infuriatingly selective double standard over whose bodies are sacred. Girl in a village? Eh. Diplomat in America? International incident! Maybe that’s because it was Americans putting their hands on an Indian woman.

At some point during this fracas, Khobragade’s body became India itself, martyred by an Indian-American prosecutor seen as betraying his ancestral land. Yes, predictably, depressingly, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who charged Khobragade for her crimes, is now being called an “Uncle Tom” just for doing his job. Perhaps he was trying to send a message, since this exact situation occurred two other times with Indian diplomats.

India’s insecurity over how America perceives and treats it is also at the heart of this, and explains a lot of the bluster. I just wish that instead of clamoring for public apologies, dropped charges and dangerous retaliation against American diplomats, India would save some of its umbrage for the millions of Indian women who are disrespected and violated there every day.

They may not work in America, or have the social status of Devyani Khobragade, but they deserve outrage, too.

Anna John was born and raised in California, but she chooses to live in and represent Chocolate City. Currently a race and culture reporter, she co-founded Sepia Mutiny, a path-making online magazine about all things South Asian from an American perspective. Follow her on Twitter.

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