India protests to Saudi Arabia after maid’s hand is chopped off

Kasthuri Munirathinam, 55, was allegedly attacked by her Saudi employer for complaining about her working conditions.

Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, pictured, said her country was very much disturbed over the treatment of Kasthuri Munirathinam, and that New Delhi had taken up the case with the Saudi authorities. Prakash Singh/AFP Photo
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NEW DELHI // India said on Friday it had lodged a protest with authorities in Riyadh after a maid from Tamil Nadu allegedly had her hand chopped off by her Saudi employer for complaining about her work conditions.

India’s foreign minister deplored a “brutal” attack on 55-year-old Kasthuri Munirathinam, who is being treated at a hospital in Riyadh. It comes weeks after a Saudi diplomat based in New Delhi was accused of rape.

“Chopping off [the] hand of [an] Indian lady – we are very much disturbed over the brutal manner in which [this] Indian lady has been treated in Saudi Arabia,” Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter.

“This is unacceptable. We have taken this up with Saudi authorities,” Ms Swaraj added.

A spokesman for the foreign ministry confirmed that Indian diplomats in Riyadh had lodged a formal complaint at the Saudi foreign ministry.

Ms Munirathinam, who comes from a village in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, had suffered a catalogue of abuse since taking up a post as a domestic worker in Saudi Arabia three months ago, according to her family.

“Her right hand was chopped off by her employer when she tried to escape the daily harassment, torture and abysmal work conditions,” her sister S Vijayakumari said by phone from Tamil Nadu’s capital Chennai.

Ms Vijayakumari said that her sister had gone to Saudi Arabia to help pay off her family’s debts and she had been promised a monthly salary of around 180 dollars.

“But she was not paid, she was barely given enough to eat and not even allowed to speak to her family ... Now she only wants to come home,” Ms Vijayakumari said.

The family says that problems started for Ms Munirathinam – who was one of five domestic workers in the same household – after she complained to the local authorities about her situation.

Footage of Ms Munirathinam lying in her Saudi hospital bed was broadcast by several Indian media outlets.

Foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said that Ms Munirathinam was still recuperating in the Riyadh hospital but said that efforts were being made to bring her home.

“We are in touch with the woman, hospital and the local police authorities. She will get all possible legal and other help from the embassy,” Ms Swarup said.

Hundreds of thousands of Indian migrants work in households in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries but complaints about their treatment by their employers often make headlines back home.

A video showing a male Indian worker being beaten by his Saudi employer went viral in September, sparking a widespread backlash on social media.

There was also widespread anger last month when the first secretary at the Saudi embassy left India under diplomatic immunity after being accused of holding captive and raping two Nepalese maids in his home.

* Agence France-Presse