Washington, 5 April-2015, Raj Shekhar(TNN): Manny Encarnacion’s friends think India is getting its own back for the Khobragade Nannygate spat. “You guys like to strip-search our diplomats,” an Indian security official reportedly told the NYPD cop at New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport as he arrested him on March 10 for “inadvertently” traveling there with three bullets in his checked luggage.
Nearly four weeks later, NYPD is still trying to bring back its 49-year old officer, who was visiting India to meet his Iranian wife Vida because they found it easier to rendezvous there. It has written a letter to Indian officials explaining his “innocent mistake.”
According to the NYPD version, Encarnacion was taking a required firearms recertification at a shooting range two days before he was to leave for India. At the end of the session, he tucked three spare rounds into his jacket pocket, and forgot about them. The bullets were still in the pocket when he packed his jacket in his suitcase to travel to India.
“He knows he didn’t do anything wrong,” said Raul Borbon, a friend of the officer was quoted as saying in the New York Post, which first reported the story. “It’s an innocent mistake.”
Regardless of whether New Delhi agrees with this, the NYPD cop is having to go through the legal grind in India, leading the Post, if not his friends, to believe he is being targeted to avenge the Khobragade episode in which the Indian diplomat was run out of New York in what New Delhi said was an overblown case.
The State Department said it was aware of the incident, but declined to go into details because of what spokesperson Marief Harf said were “privacy considerations.”
Asked if it was seen as retribution from New Delhi for the Khobragade episode, Harf said the US wanted to “get past some of the tensions that have been there over the past several months and move on.”
“I just can’t speak to this specific case… I think we feel like we’ve moved past this and hope the Indians have as well,” she added.
Delhi Police commissioner B S Bassi did not reply to the text messages. The deputy commissioner (IGI airport), Irshad Haidar, confirmed the arrest but added that he did not have any detail. Officials, however, denied that this arrest had any connection with the diplomat case.
It was during the transit security check that the bullets were found in his luggage, said sources. The cop could not allegedly give a satisfactory answer. “An FIR (number 82) under Section 25 of Arms Act has been registered. He has been granted bail,” said a source.
But New York’s tabloid leader went to town with the story. “NYPD cop held in India as ‘Nannygate’ revenge,” read the headline in NY Post, above a photo of Encarnacion in front of the Taj Mahal, with an inset picture of Devyani Khobragade.
The paper said Encarnacion has charged with violating the country’s Arms Act of 1959 — and is facing up to seven years in an Indian prison for what it described as a “trumped up charge.”
Although he has hired a local lawyer to represent him, he is forbidden from leaving the country until his case plays out in court. “He was supposed to be going for 2¹/2 weeks, but it’s turning into five weeks, if he comes back on April 19,” his next court date in India, his friend Borbon said, adding that the NYPD cop of ten years wasn’t really sweating it out because he was getting to spend additional time with his wife.
He could end up doing plenty more time: The NYPD has told him if he gets convicted of a felony, he’ll lose his job.