| Updated at: 0003 PST, Monday, January 17, 2011|
NEW DELHI: The foreign ministry has recalled a senior Indian diplomat in London accused of assaulting his wife, sources said amid reports in the UK media that the diplomat’s wife had gone into hiding with their five-year-old son, fearing for her safety.
Officials in the ministry of external affairs said Anil Verma, an IAS officer posted as minister (economics) in the high commission, had been asked to return to India. The high commission refused to confirm this and said it was awaiting instructions from the ministry.
UK paper Daily Mail had reported that Verma’s wife Paromita fled from their Golders Green home in Hampstead on December 11 with blood streaming from her face after being punched in the face. Verma brazenly flaunted his diplomatic immunity to Paromita, her visiting family and the police, said the newspaper.
But the mission, clearly, was not prepared to take sides in a domestic conflict. It seemed unlikely that it would deviate from the Vienna Convention and lift Verma's diplomatic protection which would UK authorities to prosecute him.
On being questioned by the high commission about the incident, Verma is believed to have said that an altercation took place between the two over a Christmas tree given to them by Paromita’s relatives which led Verma to hit her. Her relatives called the police.
Paromita, who works with Indian Railways, is on study leave. Her aunt is married to an Englishman and lives nearby. But now that she has disappeared, sources believe she may be using this incident to take asylum in Britain to just stay on there.
Sources in the mission said the matter was "regrettable" and that diplomats and their families were "expected to conduct themselves in a certain manner" when they were on an overseas posting.
Verma is from the West Bengal cadre and is on deputation at the high commission. He is one of half-a-dozen in the mission enjoying "minister" rank below the high commissioner and deputy high commissioner. He was earlier private secretary to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.
It’s not clear whether any legal action will be taken against Verma in India. What is clear is that the government feels deeply embarrassed by the events. The UK foreign office had formally asked for India to waive diplomatic immunity to face legal action in their country. That was refused.
The British newspaper insinuated that the Indian high commission, instead of coming to the woman’s aid apparently threatened to send her back to India. Rajesh Prasad, deputy high commissioner visited them on December 13 and January 3, and scolded Paromita for publicizing the incident, it said.
The British newspaper quotes a friend of Paromita as saying, "He (Anil) was furious and started screaming at Paromita, saying, ‘You and your family think you are smart but I will show you all.’
The Verma friend gave a graphic description of the events of the day to the tabloid. "Anil suddenly blew up on the morning of the incident. He was in his pyjamas and suddenly flew into a rage over the fact that there was a Christmas tree in the house that had been given to them from one of Paromita's relatives."