News East West
NEW DELHI: Indian diplomat Devyani Khorbagade, who returned here from New York on Friday after her indictment for visa fraud related to her maid Sangeeta Richard, fears that she might never again reunite with her family back in New York.
Devyani is married to Aakash Singh Rathore, a wine expert who is an American citizen. The couple have two daughters – aged 7 and 4 – who were born in India but currently live with their dad in New York.
Though Devyani was allowed to return to India, the charges against her will remain until the two countries work something out on the issue. If she ever returns to the US on a non-diplomatic visa, she will be arrested.
The US State Department has already ruled out “the routine issuance of any future visa’’ to Devyani.
“I wonder if I will be able to ever reunite with my family, my husband, my little kids. I miss them,’’ Khobragade told the Sunday Express in her first interview after her return to the Indian capital.
Expressing her apprehension about her future, the 39-year-old IFS officer said, “What if my children choose to study and work in the US? What if I can never return to the US, which I cannot now… Does it mean we will never be able to live together as a family again?’’
Devyani said, “My little kids, who have never been separated from me, are too young to realise that their mother will not return home any time soon. In fact she would never return to that same house again. I spoke to my kids for hours last night, and they are already missing me. The 4-year-old asked me, ‘Mommy, when will you be back home’, and I had no answer.
“The kids think I am out for some work. My little one even told me, ‘Mama please get me some blue and golden bangles from India when you return’. She is a great fan of ethnic jewellery.”
Devyani said, “There is no one to take care of my family there. I have left the kids with my husband, but we have still not hired a help to take care of them. Everything is being done by my husband at present. My younger daughter is in pre-school and needs me the most at this time.
“I know I am honest, and I will come out clean. But we do not know how much time it will take and for how long my family will have to suffer due to this. I thank the foreign secretary and the external affairs minister for their support.’’
But in Washington, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki made it clear on Friday that the US is now out of bounds for Devyani.
Psaki said the charges against Devyani stand and she will not be allowed to come to the US except to submit to the US courts.
“Her name would be placed in visa and immigration lookout systems to prevent the routine issuance of any future visa and upon her departure a warrant may be issued for her arrest,” Psaki said.
The spokesperson added, “Prior to her departure (for India), it was conveyed to her (Devyani) and to the government of India that she is not permitted to return to the United States except to submit to the jurisdiction of the court.’’