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Row over X-mas tree 'provoked' diplomat, says Indian mission

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 - 3:52pm IST | Place: London | Agency: PTI
'There is no question of condoning domestic violence which is totally unacceptable. Once the officer returns to India, the matter will be thoroughly investigated and acted upon appropriately,' the mission said.

The Indian high commission in London has issued a blow-by-blow account on the alleged wife-bashing by its senior diplomat Anil Verma, who has been transfered back to India, saying the incident was "provoked" by a row over a Christmas tree gift.

Taking a tough stand on domestic violence, the mission in a statement said, "There is no question of condoning domestic violence which is totally unacceptable. Once the officer returns to India, the matter will be thoroughly investigated and acted upon appropriately."

Noting that the ministry of external affairs has taken a serious view in the matter, it said, "the laws of the land would take care of any acts that need to be taken care of, consequent to the inquiry."

Verma, a senior IAS officer of West Bengal cadre, joined the high commission as minister (economic), ranking number three in the mission, on August 24, 2009.

Narrating the sequence of events, the five-page statement said, "apparently, the incident was provoked by a gift (a Christmas tree) made by Verma's aunt (her mother's sister who is married to Robert Chase and lives near their house) to their son.

"This was objected to by Verma and led to an altercation."

According to the statement, Verma had offered to buy a Christmas tree for their son. However, Verma's wife Paromita had said that since they already had a tree from the previous year, they did not need to buy one.

Subsequently, when a Christmas tree was gifted by Mrs Chase, Verma said that he felt humiliated.

He wanted to remove the tree from the house. When he went upstairs to do this, Paromita followed him and tried to prevent him from doing so.

In the scuffle that followed, she was injured.

According to Verma, "Mrs Verma was hit on the face when he was trying to remove the Christmas tree from the house and she was trying to forcibly prevent him from doing so. According to Mrs Verma, she was slapped. This resulted in bleeding from her nose due to damage to tissues in the nose.

"Mrs Verma ran out of her house and her neighbours called the police and an ambulance. The police recorded Mrs Verma's statement (which was also signed by her) after which Mrs Verma was taken by the ambulance to the Hospital and returned to her residence the same day."

The high commission officials visited Verma's residence on December 13, 2010, to enquire about the incident and Mrs Verma's welfare.

At no point was Mrs Verma berated or threatened by the high commission officials, the statement said.

Mrs Verma, while expressing dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in her marriage, said that her continued stay in the UK was important from the point of view of treatment of her younger son (who was at that time bed-ridden and was being tutored at home by a visiting teacher).

She requested that, "Verma should be firmly spoken to and should be advised to go in for counselling.  Mrs Verma also indicated that she would like to sort out matters with her husband and would also go with him for counselling.

"Verma was spoken to in appropriate terms and told that the use of force was totally unacceptable and that under no circumstances or provocation should this recur. Were this to happen again, it would be untenable.

"In his response, Verma said that this was the first time such an incident had happened and he promised that it would not recur. He also agreed to go for counselling along with Mrs Verma.

"Both Mr and Mrs Verma were suitably told that as diplomats, they were expected to conduct themselves with dignity and decorum. The high commission's concerns over such incidents notwithstanding, the differences between Mr and Mrs Verma would basically have to be sorted out by the two themselves."

In the circumstances, it was decided that the couple be given a chance to amicably sort out their differences.

According to the statement, "On January 3, 2011, Verma formally informed the high commission that he was being subjected to harassment and tension by his wife, mother-in-law and Mr and Mrs Chase.

He was also being repeatedly taunted that he was a "criminal".

On account of this, Verma said that he was finding it difficult to live at his official residence as he was afraid that another incident might take place and he wanted to move out at the earliest.

High commission officials visited Verma's residence in the evening of January 3, 2011.

In the evening of January 3, 2011, Verma moved out of his official residence into a hotel. His wife and other members of the family continued to stay at the official residence.

On January 5, 2011, Verma informed the high commission that his wife and other members of the family were no longer contactable at his official residence and that Mrs Verma was not responding to his telephone calls.

The high commission also tried to establish contact with Mrs Verma but without success.

As Verma did not have the keys to his house and he needed to access it, he went to his residence on January 6, 2011, along with a high commission official, to get the locks changed.

At the request of the UK foreign and commonwealth office (FCO), the high commission officials met officials of the protocol directorate of the FCO on January 10, 2011.

The high commission officials emphasised that the incident was unfortunate and that the high commission was taking appropriate steps in its wake.

On January 13, 2011, FCO wrote to the high commission requesting for waiver of Verma's diplomatic immunity.

The note further stated that failure to waive Verma's immunity will result in an immediate request for Verma and his dependents to be withdrawn from the UK.

On January 17, 2011, the high commission informed the FCO through a Note Verbale that a decision has been taken by the government of India to transfer Anil Verma and his family to India.


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