Kerala Adoption Row: Mother’s Search for Missing Baby in India

Image source, Vivek Nair
Image caption

Anupama S Chandran asserts that her father abducted her child without her consent

The court gave the child to a mother who had been searching for her son in India for over a year. Ashraf and Soutik Padanna write about a scandal that has caused outrage, and created a political storm.

A couple protested outside an agency for adoption in Kerala’s southern state, seeking the release of their child.

They have set up camp under a tarp along a busy thoroughfare of the capital’s Thiruvananthapuram, formerly Trivandrum, amid the torrential rains. They retire to their Suzuki minivan as night falls.

She holds up a sign that reads, “Give my baby to me!” Her father denied the accusation. She claims her family abandoned her child to be adopted.

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Anupama S. Chandran was blessed with a son on the 19th of October, which weighed in at 4.4 pounds (2.2 kg) and was born in a local hospital.

A 22-year old activist braved social stigma to have a child with Ajith Kumar Baby, 34. He was a public relations officer at a hospital.

The woman and her pregnancy were causing a stir in the family.

India considers it a crime to have a child outside of marriage. Anupama is from a dominant caste, while Ajith (formerly untouchables) belongs to the lowest caste in India. Inter-caste marriages and interfaith unions are not permitted.

Anupama, Ajith and others were from middle class progressive Indian families.

Both of these families were strong supporters of the government’s Communist Party of India (Marxist). Kerala, which is an established redoubt of Parliamentary Communism.

Anupama was the daughter of a bank manager and a leader in local parties. Her grandparents were prominent unionists as well as municipal councillors.

Anupama was a physics graduate and the first female to lead the student’s union of the Communist party at her college. Ajith led the youth wing of the party.

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Both had been raised in the same neighborhood and they met when working together for the Communist party. Their union began three years ago. Ajith claimed that he had been separated from his wife three years ago. The couple did not have any children. It was not love at the first sight. Our friendship began at first. Anupama explained that eventually, we became friends and decided to move in together.

Anupama was pregnant in the last year. The couple then decided to have their baby. The couple never had any doubts that they would have a baby. She said, “We were prepared to be parents.” One month before the delivery she announced her news to her parents. They convinced her to come home in preparation for her baby, and she was forbidden to contact Ajith.

Her parents came to pick up Anupama and her child after she was released from hospital. She was told by her parents that she would be staying at a friend and then return to home once Anupama married Anupama’s younger sister. This took place three months later. They stated that they did not want any inquisitive visitors asking questions about the new-born.

According to her, the father drove the child home from hospital on a car ride. She said that her father told her he wanted to take the baby to safer places where he could be reunited with him later.

“My bundle was just gone.”

They took her from one home to another for a few months before finally taking her to her grandmother’s house, 200 km (124 miles) outside of the city.

She returned to her home in February 2012, and attended the sister’s wedding. Ajith called her back and informed him of their missing son. Anupama told Ajith that her parents had placed their child up for adoption. In March, she moved out of her parents’ home and started living with Ajith (and his parents). They began to search for their child.

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This was a nightmare.

They discovered that the child’s birth record contained the name and address of an unidentified man, not Ajith. Initial reports of missing child were not registered by the police. They told her instead that they were investigating her father’s claim about Anupama “going absent” from her home.

The police surprised the couple by surprising them in August. They claimed that her father told them Anupama had willingly given up the child to adoption.

They filed complaints against the government, chief minister, adoption agency, and state police chief. After he said that Anupama’s parents had done “what everyone will do”, a complaint was filed against Saji Cheriyan, the minister of state culture.

Anupama & Ajith also appeared on the news channels last month to share their experiences. Officials and politicians finally noticed. In the state assembly, opposition legislators raised an alarm by claiming that it was an instance of an “honour criminal”. “It was an honor crime committed collectively by state machinery,” stated KK Rema (a female opposition legislator).

S Jayachandran Anupama’s father has stood by his son’s actions. What do we do when something like this occurs in our house? The baby was left where Anupama had placed him. Her lack of resources meant that she could not protect her child. “We can’t do that either,” he said to a television network.

Anupama said that the baby’s father was a man with a wife. My daughter and her baby are my responsibility. Anupama had not been feeling well since giving birth. “So I decided to adopt the child from an agency that would take care of it.”

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Jayachandran was curious as to how the “illegal” child could be kept in his family. After consulting a lawyer and the Communist Party, he said that he only handed the child over to the agency. The anchor asked him what he wanted to say to his child. He replied, “I don’t want to listen to anything from my daughter.”

Six people were arrested by the police following the chaos. Anupama’s siblings, parents and brother-in law are among them. These men are facing charges for wrongful confinement as well as kidnapping, and they all deny the accusations.

The court required DNA testing on the baby that an adoption agency had given to foster parents in Andhra Pradesh in August. The adopted parents returned the baby to Trivandrum and ordered DNA tests.

Anupama, Ajith and the doctor confirmed that they had the same DNA as the baby. They finally got to see him at the home for orphans run by charity. They vow to continue protesting until those responsible for trafficking the baby are punished.

On Wednesday, the court heard DNA evidence and gave the baby to its parents.

According to the couple, it has been an extremely difficult year. Anupama worries incessantly for her baby, more than one year old.

Isn’t that my right?


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