Indian envoy flays arrest of 40 Indians
Indian Ambassador to the US Naresh Chandra
is incensed over the inhuman treatment meted out to 40 Indian computer
programmers working at a US Air Force base who were handcuffed and paraded like
common criminals after being arrested in an immigration raid.
Chandra said he would take up the matter at the highest
levels of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the US Department
of State as soon as he ascertained all the facts, “because it seems to be
high-handed to me.”
Among the 40 arrested by INS agents on January 20 in San Antonio, Texas, were 10
women, two of them pregnant. All of them were handcuffed and “paraded like
common criminals.” The programmers said that despite having valid visas,
they had been publicly humiliated.
INS officials claimed the raid came after a six-month probe into a “visa
scam” involving foreign workers assigned to teams doing software
development work at the air force base.
However, Chandra said, “Our present information is that they had valid
visas and I don’t know on what technicality these people have been proceeded
against. It could at best be some technical thing about the work.”
“But we never expected that graduates and decent people would be handcuffed
in the workplace and taken without giving any notice to the employer, without
giving them any chance to be represented by attorneys,” Chandra said.
“Then marching them to jail, including women; it smacks of very high-handed
and irresponsible treatment, but we will know the full facts after we talk and
we intend to take it up very strongly,” he said.
Chandra reiterated that “we are collecting the full facts, it will come
from the employer, but my preliminary reaction is — and I am not aware of the
full facts and the version from the both sides — but according to the version
that we have, we are very unhappy and terribly disappointed.”
Asked if he had dispatched any senior officer to San Antonio, where the raid
took place, to interview the victims and others involved in the case, Chandra
said, “We have a Consul-General in Houston (and) I have spoken to him and
he will be taking up the matter first thing tomorrow morning with INS
authorities at Houston.”
He said, “As soon as we get all the facts and the report from the Consul
General of Houston, in a day or two, we will take it up very effectively”
with the INS and the State Department.
Meanwhile, the India Abroad Centre for Political Awareness (IACPA), a
non-political action group, has brought the incident to the notice of
influential US lawmakers, including Sam Gejdenson, ranking minority member on
the House International Relations Committee, Gary Ackerman, who co-chairs the
Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, and Frank Pallone, founder
of the India Caucus.
IACPA president Gopal Raju said if the large Indian American community in the US
does not wake up to these issues and mobilise public opinion against such
incidents, these would come to haunt the community.
“Individual Indian American success stories are not a substitute for
community solidarity and assertion,” said Raju. He said the substantial
number of Indian Americans who had contributed to Congressional campaigns should
cash in their chips and lobby with their representatives to prevent recurrence
of such incidents.