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July 19, 2015 | by  | in News |
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Internship cancelled amid slavery accusations

An internship provided by the Victoria International Leadership Programme (VILP) and the New Zealand India Friendship Association has been cancelled in the wake of slavery and assault allegations against the Indian High Commissioner.

Ravi Thapar, who facilitated the internship, left New Zealand late last month after he was accused of keeping a domestic slave.

On 29 June, VILP sent an email to all applicants for the internship, which read “Thank you so much again for your applications for the India/NZIFA internship but due to the news this morning about the recall of the Indian High Commissioner, we will not be pursuing this internship any further at this present time.”

The email then linked to an article on Stuff about the slavery allegations.

VILP confirmed that the internship was withdrawn because Mr. Thapar was recalled to India, and “with his departure from New Zealand, the internship opportunity is no longer available”.

The allegations were made by a former worker in the Thapar household, who has also left the country and returned to India. The worker claimed that Mr. Thapar and his wife kept him in slavery, that Mrs. Thapar assaulted him, and that Mr. Thapar threatened to assault him.

The man was found by a member of the public in June after walking 20 km from Mr. Thapar’s $1.1 million house in Lower Hutt to Wellington.

Thapar rejected the allegations and said the worker had “adequate, and umpteen, dozens of opportunities” to leave the household. “The question of slavery doesn’t arise.”

He rejected the allegations of physical assault as “bizarre and absurd”.

Police will not press charges as the worker did not lay a formal complaint.

Mr. Thapar claimed that his return to India was due to needing to look after his sick mother. “I’m the only son and I have that moral responsibility,” he said.

Students affected by the cancelled internship have been offered the opportunity to apply for the United States Embassy Digital Internship.

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