Human Trafficking Lawsuit: Was Bride a Slave or Gold Digger?

PHOTO: The Myspace profile picture of Humansu Udwadia, seen here in this screen grab.

One fact is undisputed in a modern-day story that included arranged marriage and charges of human trafficking: Diptiben Mistry and Himansu Udwadia were wed on Feb. 3, 2007, in Gandevi, India, and then moved to the United States the same year.

In a lawsuit filed Jan. 10 filed Jan. 10 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma, Mistry alleges her marriage was fraudulent and that her in-laws kept her as a "virtual prisoner" in their Elk City, Okla., home, forcing her to work long hours, depriving her of medical care and even abusing her.

Mistry, now 24, said she became malnourished, losing 26 pounds during the alleged ordeal. The couple divorced in 2008.

But now her in-laws, Chandrakant and Nilam Udwadia of Suanee, Ga., claim in court papers filed this week that Mistry was a gold digger who spun a "far-fetched claimed grand conspiracy."

"This case is really about a young woman's obsession to have more and better at almost any cost," wrote defense counsel in its response to the lawsuit. "Mistry, intentionally and maliciously, has twisted the facts in a poorly conceived plan to gain the sympathy of others for the purpose of getting a United States visa, wealth and opportunity at the expense of Chandrakant and Nilam."

The Udwadias are citizens of Canada and India, and have permanent residency in the United States. They are being represented by Oklahoma lawyer Peter L. Scimeca, who told that all the claims of human slavery were "false."

"We have a substantial amount of evidence to refute the allegations contained in the complaint, and we look forward to doing that in litigation," said Scimeca. "There is another side to this, and it's compelling."

Mistry has asked the court for more than $75,000 to compensate her for "forced labor" and for "intense physical and psychological pain and suffering," and most of all, for depriving her of her "basic human dignity," according to the lawsuit.

Human Rights USA., which is representing Mistry, alleges that the family violated a federal human trafficking law that was enacted in 2000, which has a victim's remedy provision, as well as an Oklahoma law that passed in 2005.

Mistry, who still lives in the United States, and Himansu Udwadia, a 28-year-old accountant living in Georgia, agree that it was an arranged marriage -- which is the custom in India.

But Mistry alleges that she was tricked into marrying her husband; the Udwadias claim that was not the case.

Diptiben Mistry was a 20-year-old college student in India when she married Himansu Udwadia, then 24, who had been living with his parents in Oklahoma.

Mistry said she was promised a good life and the opportunity to finish her college education in hotel management in India.

But after a brief honeymoon in Goa, all those dreams vanished, she alleges, as her father-in-law insisted his son return immediately to the U.S. with his new bride. They eventually settled in the same Elk City house as her husband's parents.

There, Mistry alleges, the Udwadias controlled her life -- rationing food, depriving her of medical care and forcing her into unpaid labor as a household servant.

The Udwadias deny those claims and say that Mistry "spent less than an hour helping Nilam" in meal preparation and cleaning.

Mistry alleges she was forced to wear only Indian dress, but the defense provided about 600 family photos as part of its response to the lawsuit that show her wearing "typical American clothes."

In the lawsuit Mistry claims that her in-laws took away all her personal belongings, including her passport, so that she could not leave.

But the Udwadias allege that marital income was shared with Mistry, and personal items were provided.

Mistry, who would not reveal where she currently lives in the U.S., said in an email to that she knew "early on" that her treatment by the Udwadias was "not right."

But the Udwadias allege that their son started his family "using as a model for his happiness his own parents."

Nilam Udwadia is "a traditional Indian wife who devotes herself to the betterment of her family," alleges the defense in court documents.

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