Panel asks MEA to act against US Embassy

Political specialist alleges inhuman treatment

The National Commission for Women has asked the Ministry of External Affairs to take “appropriate action” on the allegation of a woman that she was subjected to “inhuman treatment” while working at the American Embassy in New Delhi last year.

The commission asked the MEA to send a report to it by January 12 on the actions taken on the basis of the allegation of Aparna Srivastava, who worked as a political specialist in the American Embassy in New Delhi for about three-and-a-half months last year.

The NCW has written to the External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to “personally” look into the allegation of Srivastava, who has alleged that she was unduly forced to resign from the job at the US Embassy in New Delhi as her bosses were irked by her efforts to present ‘unbiased’ narratives on the human rights situation in India. The commission also wrote to Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh to take “appropriate action” as per law.

The NCW’s letters to the foreign secretary and the external affairs minister are understood to have set the stage for the government to take up the matter with the American Embassy.

Srivastava’s complaint with the NCW came at a time when the Indian Foreign Service officer Devyani Khobragade’s arrest by US law enforcement officials in New York recently triggered a diplomatic spat between New Delhi and Washington.

Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar, a member of the NCW, wrote to both the foreign secretary and the external affairs minister, after the panel received a petition from Srivastava.
“The complainant has alleged inhuman treatment meted out to her by the HR (human resource) officers of the Embassy of United States of America, New Delhi, on 19th October 2012, who seized her mobile and terminated her services with immediate effect after three-and-a-half months of her joining as a Political Specialist in the Embassy,”

Prabhavalkar wrote to Singh on Thursday, adding: “The complainant is a single unmarried woman who is presently jobless and also has to look after her ailing aged mother.”
Prabhavalkar requested Khurshid to look into the matter personally and expedite submission of the required Action Taken Report to the commission.

Srivastava, who earlier worked for National Human Rights Commission, recently told Deccan Herald that she was forced to resign, because her effort to present an “unbiased” report on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act was not liked by her supervisors, who wanted to highlight only the purported abuses of the controversial law.

She wanted to incorporate in her presentation the views of the armed forces that they did need the powers and immunity guaranteed by the controversial law to combat militancy in the disturbed areas of the country, but it was disapproved by her bosses.

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