Anupama S Chandran’s ordeal will soon come to an end, she hopes.
The Child Welfare Committee (CWC) has started the proceedings for a DNA test to identify the parents. Officials at Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (RGCB) in Thiruvananthapuram conducted DNA tests on the one-year-old baby boy on Monday (December 22) a day after he was brought back to Kerala from the prospective adoptive parents in Hyderabad. The results are expected to be out tomorrow (Tuesday, November 23).
But Anupama, who is on an indefinite strike in front of the Kerala State Council for Child Welfare (KSCCW, the adoption agency), alleged that there is no transparency in the process.
Her request for conduct of the DNA test together for herself, her partner Ajith and the baby was denied.
“How would I know that they are taking the DNA sample of the same baby brought from Andhra? I am scared that they would sabotage the entire process,” Anupama told The Federal, adding that her fears are based on valid ground because the KSCCW and the CWC flouted procedures and violated the provisions of the Juvenile Justice Act during the adoption process.
According to Anupama, her three-day-old baby boy was taken away by her parents without her consent and knowledge. She filed a complaint in April this year that the child had been forcefully taken but the authorities allegedly ignored her and went ahead with adoption proceedings for the baby.
She had also filed a police complaint against her father, S Jayachandran, a CPI(M) leader, her mother, sister, and brother-in-law for allegedly abducting the baby.
The CWC had on November 17 issued an order directing the KSCCW to bring the child back to Kerala.
Social media astir over Anupama and Ajith
Despite the fact that the adoption battle is coming to a close, the cyber abuse and moral policing meted out to Anupama and Ajith has not died down; in fact, emotionally-charged opinions have eclipsed the alleged violation of the JJ Act and adoption rules, and procedural errors committed by the state authorities.
“This is a deliberate and organised activity. I think the left-wing handles on social media are trying to cover up the errors committed by the state by distorting facts and spreading emotional messages,” says M Sulfath, a social activist who has been with Anupama on her strike in front of the KSCCW, as she demands the sacking of JS Shiju Khan, general secretary of the council, and N Sunanda, CWC chairperson, whom she alleges were behind the adoption.
The Malayalam social media is awash with distorted facts. The picture of a woman, who is a CWC staff member carrying the baby on their way back from Hyderabad, has gone viral with a caption indicating that she was the “adoptive mother” handing back the baby with a heavy heart.
Another message doing the rounds is that the adoptive parents have given away all their property by registering the same in the baby’s name. “People do not even understand the basics of the concept as adoption, foster care, etc. At this stage, the (Hyderabad) couple are only foster parents as the adoption procedures have not been completed,” PE Usha, a gender rights activist and former president of Kerala Mahila Samakhya told The Federal.
Many other viral messages are abusing Anupama and Ajith for “being heartless enough to snatch the baby” from the foster parents. According to many, an unmarried woman delivering a baby is too heavy a burden for society.
Anupama told The Federal that she would continue her struggle till she gets her baby back in her arms permanently. She was also adamant that she would not roll back her legal battle against anyone, including the CWC and KSCCW, to hold them accountable for violations of the JJ Act and the legal principles of adoption.
The final orders in the adoption case will be issued by the CWC after all legal formalities have been completed. The Kerala government has meanwhile announced a probe into the case.
Civil society steps in
Prominent members of civil society, including JNU professors such as Ayesha Kidwai and Nivedita Menon, Kerala Mahila Samakhya’s PE Usha, feminist scholar Urvashi Butalia, and environmental activist Priya Pillai, have issued a statement in Anupama’s favour, detailing her struggle and calling on the “Chief Minister of Kerala and the Kerala government to respond immediately and positively to all her demands”.
“Anupama had resisted the removal of her infant. But her parents assured her that it was temporary and that the infant would be returned to her after the wedding of her older sister. But not only did they break this promise, but they also prevented her from communicating with her partner and confined her to their house,” says the statement, further noting that “it is still the agencies accused of conniving in this infamous baby-snatching who are tasked with further action. To date, the officials that Anupama accused of colluding with her parents have not been removed”.
Another row in the making
Another controversy is erupting over the adoption licence of the KSCCW.
According to sources in KSSCW, the tenure of the licence – granted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development for five years – ended on June 30, 2021. However, state health minister Veena George dismissed the idea and told the media that the agency is authorised to conduct adoption proceedings and its license has not expired. According to George, the revised guidelines for adoption empower the state government to grant licence to an adoption agency and the same was granted to the KSCCW.