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Pan Am victims' families question US stand in Devyani Khobragade case

Thursday, 26 December 2013 - 8:50pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

Relatives of the Indian victims of Pan Am Flight 73, which was hijacked by terrorists in 1986, have expressed anguish over the treatment meted out to diplomat Devyani Khobragade by US authorities and alleged that there was more than what "meets the eye".

They alleged that though the US claimed in Khobragade's case that foreign nationals in the country were entitled to protection on a par with American citizens, the attitude of the US towards the victims of Pan Am Flight was different as it had "discriminated" between American nationals and Indians.

In letters to Vikram Kumar Doraiswami, Joint Secretary (Americas) in the Ministry of External Affairs, the families of Indian victims of the plane hijack said they were "really dismayed and anguished" to see how the American Government treated Khobragade.

"Obviously, there is more than what meets the eye in the Devyani Khobragade case," said one of the letters written on behalf of the families by Aneesh Bhanot, brother of Neerja Bhanot who was a flight attendant for Pan Am Airlines and died while saving passengers.

Khobragade, 39, was arrested on December 12 on charges of making false declarations in a visa application for her maid Sangeeta Richards. She was released on a USD 250,000 bond.

Subsequent revelations that she was strip searched and held in jail with drug addicts and criminals triggered a row between the US and India.

The families said though the US talked about providing same protection against exploitation to all employees working there but in case of relating to Pan Am 73, their attitude has been different.

"Why were Indians discriminated against as compared to US citizens by America in case of compensation funds received from Libya (not US Taxpayers money), specifically in the case of Pan Am 73 in which Indians risked their lives to save Americans during the hijack," asked Bhanot in another letter.

The hijacking of the plane in Karachi in 1986 that lasted 17 hours, ended in a blood-bath, with the terrorists hurling hand grenades and spraying bullets from automatic weapons. Twenty people died, of which 13 were Indian nationals and over 100 Indians were injured, some of them very seriously.


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