An Indian nuclear scientist working with Texas University in the US has accused authorities of racial discrimination and conspiracy after he was detained in December 2016 for allegedly harassing a female student.
Tarun Bhardwaj, 38, who moved to the US in 2007 after completing his PhD from the prestigious Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in India, is reportedly facing charges of harassing and stalking the student and preventing a police officer from carrying out his duty.
"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," he told The Time of India newspaper.
His family back home in India also said that he is "merely the victim of a racially-motivated conspiracy".
According to his profile on the website of Texas A&M University, Bharadwaj was working there as an assistant research scientist. He specialised in "chemical characterisation of special nuclear materials, separation of fission products from spent nuclear fuel and high-level nuclear waste", the profile, which has now been removed, read.
While working at the university, Bhardwaj was arrested several times between January and August 2015 on harassment charges and had also signed surety bonds, which he allegedly violated, court documents reportedly showed. He was even directed to wear a GPS ankle monitoring device, but he allegedly did not follow, prompting his arrest. He has been detained at Brazos County Detention Centre.
Prasoon Bhardwaj, his elder brother, has accused the US authorities of framing the researcher for exposing corruption and racial discrimination at the university. He said that his brother had been facing pressure to withdraw the corruption charges and when he did not agree, he was arrested and sacked.
Bhardwaj's family also suspect that he was framed because his peers were jealous of his academic achievements. "He has been persecuted because of his meteoric rise in his field. He has been framed by his contemporaries," Tarun's father, Ram Kishan Bhardwaj, told the publication.
However, Indian consular officials in Houston, said that the researcher has been accused of similar offences in the past. He was due to be deported to India after completion of US court proceedings, an official said, noting: "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 behaviour."