The Indian government has adopted a tough stance vis-a-vis the Devyani Khobragade case in the US. But, when an innocent Indian student, Vikram Buddhi, 42, was arrested in April 2006, it did not raise a finger to help him.
Captain BK Subbarao, a former defence scientist and Vikram’s father, said: “I am happy that our government has taken up the Devyani case seriously. But, I don’t understand why it did not act similarly in Vikram’s case. He is a law-abiding Indian citizen and it was the duty of the government to come to his rescue. I put forth his case to as many people as possible, including prime minister Manmohan Singh and the then external affairs minister SM Krishna. But, nobody helped us.”
“We had to deal with the gross injustice meted out by the so-called most powerful democracy in the world and also with the total apathy of the Indian government,” he said.
After seven years in a US jail, Vikram has returned home, embittered by his traumatic experience in the US and the indifference of Indian authorities. He has restricted his interactions with the outside world.
Vikram, an alumnus of IIT, Mumbai, was a teaching assistant pursuing a PhD at Indiana’s Purdue University. On April 14, 2006, the federal police swooped down on his hostel room in the Purdue campus, seizing his computer and accusing him of appealing to Iraqis on Yahoo to kill the then president, George W Bush, and other VIPs, for waging an unjust war in their country.
The American secret service, which examined Vikram and closely studied his computer, concluded that he was innocent. Nevertheless, the federal authorities insisted on proceeding against him.
Capt Subbarao, who is also a noted lawyer, rushed to Indiana to defend his son. However, he was not even allowed to set foot in the courtroom though he volunteered to demonstrate how it is possible to post a message on a computer and make it appear as if it was generated by another.
The authorities were anything but cooperative to Capt Subbarao. They refused to extend his visa and after it expired, put him in an automobile and whisked away to the airport. He was put on a flight to Mumbai without permission to collect his clothes from his room.
Vikram was not given a proper defence lawyer and the order to sentence him to prison for seven long years was passed virtually ex-parte. Capt Subbarao believes that his son was targetted because he (Subbarao) had written a series of well-researched articles online and in print against the dangers of the Indo-US nuclear deal. The articles, which made a strong case for why it was not in India’s interest to ink the deal, were written before the signing of the agreement.
“There is no other reason why they would target my son who is totally innocent,’’ he said.
Capt Subbarao wrote detailed letters to US president Obama and US attorney general Eric Holder stating his son’s case. Studying US laws thoroughly, he had pointed out that his son was denied basic human rights. He also cited cases where US citizens, similarly placed like Vikram, were treated. When Vikram finally completed his prison term (he was not allowed to appeal) he was still kept in custody for several months before being permitted to return to India.
No help from any quarter
“I put forth his case to as many people as possible, including prime minister Manmohan Singh and the then external affairs minister SM Krishna. But, nobody helped us,” says his father BK Subbarao.