Indians are calling Indian American U.S. attorney ‘Uncle Tom’ for prosecuting Khobragade

December 19, 2013

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Indian outrage over the U.S. arrest and strip-search of Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade has found a new target: Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. The Indian-born lawyer is in charge of prosecuting Khobragade, which makes him a villain in the eyes of many Indians, who see the U.S. treatment of Khobragade as a national insult.

There's a complicated racial element here. The fact that Bharara is himself a highly successful Indian American, born in Punjab, would normally make him a hero in India. As the Wall Street Journal put it, the Indian press "usually seizes any opportunity to bask in the reflected glory of Indian-origin success stories." But Bharara's role in leading the prosecution of Khobragade has made him a target of Indian media. And on Twitter, a growing number of Indians are calling him out, often using the same insult: "Uncle Tom."

A prominent Indian journalist named Kanchan Gupta tweeted out to his 59,000 followers a series of messaging assailing an unnamed American "Uncle Tom" over Khobragade's treatment. While Gupta didn't identify Bharara as the "Uncle Tom," his tweets seemed written in response to a statement Bharara had released on the case shortly beforehand.

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Max Fisher · December 19, 2013