MEERUT: An Indian nuclear scientist has been lodged in a detention centre in Texas , United States, since December 2016 on serious charges of harassing and stalking a female student and preventing a police officer from carrying out his duty, reported TOI.
The scientist , Tarun K Bhardwaj, 38, himself didn't see anything wrong in his actions and told TOI that he "liked" the girl, a student at A&M University , Texas . "I am a victim of racial discrimination and have been framed for highlighting high level corruption. Charges of harassment of a female student is not such a big deal in my case as I liked her."
Indian consular officials in Houston told TOI that the man has been accused of similar acts in the past and after court proceedings would be deported to India. Bhardwaj's family back home in Bulandshahr, meanwhile, has alleged that he is "merely the victim of a racially-motivated conspiracy".
After a PhD from Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Bhardwaj left for the US in 2007 as a researcher. He then specialized in "chemical characterization of special nuclear materials, separation of fission products from spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste," according to the website of Texas A&M University where he last worked. His profile has now been removed from the website.
While working as assistant research scientist at the university in College Station, Texas , Bhardwaj was arrested several times between January and August 2015. According to documents accessed by TOI of the court at Brazos County, under which the university falls, the researcher was accused of harassing a girl student , for which he had to sign surety bonds, which he allegedly violated several times. Later he was even directed to wear a GPS ankle monitoring device which he allegedly removed illegally. Since December 29, 2016, he has been lodged at Brazos County Detention Centre.
The scientist 's family in Shikarpur town of Bulandshahr has alleged that he is a victim of "high-level corruption and racial discrimination". Prasoon Bhardwaj, his elder brother, associated with the basic education department in Bulandshahr, said, "Tarun exposed corruption and racial discrimination there. He was then charged with sexual harassment and sacked in September 2015. He went to court and had been facing pressure to withdraw the case. When he didn't agree, he was arrested."
Bhardwaj's family also believes the charges against him stem from jealousy among his peers. "He has been persecuted because of his meteoric rise in his field. He has been framed by his contemporaries," said Tarun's father, Ram Kishan Bhardwaj.
The family has since written to the PMO, the ministry of external affairs and other arms of the government seeking assistance in "clearing" Bhardwaj of the charges and bringing him home.
Government officials told TOI that there was very little to indicate the scientist 's innocence. A senior official in the Consulate General of India's Houston, Texas office, said the current detention of Bhardwaj was the fifth in a row "and every time he has been booked for harassing the same female student , which is a serious charge". He added: "There are hundreds of students and researchers from India at A&M University but not a single incident of racial discrimination has been reported. Besides, our thorough investigation has revealed that even Indians at the university prefer to stay away from him because of his behavior. Once the court proceedings are over, he will be deported to India."
A&M University officials did not reply to mails sent to them by TOI for their comment on the story.