A media awards event co-organised by a UN body had to suffer the consequences of the India-US diplomatic row over the alleged mistreatment of IFS officer Devyani Khobragade in New York as the chief guest refused to share the stage with US envoy Nancy Powell, forcing the organisers to ask Powell not to attend the ceremony.
Planning Commission Secretary Sindhushree Khullar was the chief guest and Powell was listed as special guest at the Laadli media awards for gender sensitivity, co-organised by the United Nations Population Fund and Population First.
However, Khullar is said to have informed the organisers she would not share the stage with Powell, causing the organisers to call Powell’s office and advise her to stay away.
Maintaining that the awards acknowledge efforts by the media to provide “gender-just” perspectives and analysis, one organiser said the presence of the US ambassador “would have gone against our cause”.
“Her presence would give a wrong signal, especially when we are talking of women’s empowerment on this platform, and our own woman has been ill treated by the US,” the organiser said.
Dr A L Sharada, director of Population First, said the US ambassador was asked to not attend “keeping in mind the present situation”.
“It is a very volatile situation and we did not want it to turn ugly. Her presence would have deflected all attention and we did not have the capacity to handle the massive media presence it would have led to,” Sharada said.
Khullar said she did not want to comment. “We need to turn the decibel (level) down,” she said.