Labour ward to court, a Kerala woman’s ordeal to get her baby back

Daughter of Kerala CPI(M) leader alleges political, systemic conspiracy to give away her child in adoption

Anupama, who has been running from pillar to post to get her child back, alleges that she was kept in the dark regarding the whereabouts of the baby for around 10 months. (Representational image)

The family court in Thiruvananthapuram has stayed the controversial adoption procedure followed for the child of Anupama S Chandran and Ajith Kumar, who raised a complaint saying their child was snatched away forcefully. The court has ordered a DNA test and also stipulated that the child will be kept with the adoptive parents, for the time being, putting the break on a year-long battle of Anupama, the biological mother, to get her baby back.

Anupama, a native of Thiruvananthapuram, the daughter of local CPI(M) leader PS Jayachandran and an unmarried mother, delivered a baby in October 2020. According to her, her father took her baby from her forcefully, and handed him over to the State Child Welfare Council two days after the delivery. Also, he placed Anupama under ‘house arrest’.

Complaint in cold storage

The young mother, who has been running from pillar to post to get her child back, alleged that she was kept in the dark regarding the whereabouts of the baby for around 10 months. Though she had lodged a complaint in April 2021 about the loss of her child with the District Child Welfare Committee, the local police station and the State police chief, no FIR was lodged or investigation made. The complaint was put in cold storage for six months and the Child Welfare Committee went ahead with the adoption procedure of the baby.

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Now, the court order has come as a huge relief for her, offering the hope that she will get her child back.

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Talking to The Federal, Anupama gave a detailed account of what happened. She had had a relationship with Ajith, who was married then. She got pregnant and delivered a baby on October 19, 2020. As her father and other family members were against the relationship, they forced her to try for an abortion even during the eighth month of pregnancy.

Anupama told The Federal that she was forcefully taken to hospitals in Kozhikode and Malappuram for abortion, but the doctors refused to do it.

Anupama (left) has been running from pillar to post to get her child back

Under house arrest

Three days after the delivery, Anupama was discharged from the hospital. “We went back home in two cars. On the way, my father stopped the car and snatched the baby forcefully. As I had had a caesarean section, I was too weak to resist physically. They took me to a relative’s home and I was under house arrest. I had no opportunity to contact anyone. After a couple of weeks, I was brought to my own home. Everyone in my family refused to disclose the whereabouts of my baby,” she said.

“They convinced me that they would give me my child back after my sister’s marriage. Though I was not convinced, I decided to wait and cooperate with them because I was worried that they would kill my baby if I went against their will,” recalled Anupama.

“My sister got married in February (2021) and soon after that Ajith came home to see me. (His divorce came through in January 2021). He was assaulted, threatened and sent back. Later I walked out of home and started living with Ajith. We lodged complaints with the police and the District Child Welfare Committee in April. As my father is a local leader of the CPI(M) and very influential, neither the police nor the Committee came to my rescue.”

The police did not register an FIR on Anupama’s complaint, and neither did it begin a probe to find the child. The desperate mother reached out to the media as the last resort. The police registered an FIR on her complaint only after a media storm.

Partners in crime

Anupama had no idea about the whereabouts of her child till August. She came to know from the local police that he was with the State Child Welfare Council only in August. The Council was a partner in crime, said Anupama and the gender rights activists supporting her cause.

A closer look at the role played by the Council, right from the beginning, corroborates this argument.  Anupama alleged that her father had handed over her baby to the Council, which accepted the boy as an anonymous baby received via the ‘cradle’ scheme. The Council went ahead with the adoption procedure accordingly.

In the case of an anonymous child received in the cradle, the Council has to make it known to the public in the form of an advertisement, inviting claims over the baby within 30 days. All these procedures were carefully carried out.

An advertisement was published in Malayalam newspapers on October 28 that a child was received in a cradle on October 23. It further said the Council had named the baby Sidharth. The statutory advertisement called for claims/responses within 30 days.

Dubious events

However, there are many dubious happenings that cast a shadow on the Child Welfare Council. Even before the ad was published, there was a wrong entry in the registry saying the Council had received a baby girl who was named ‘Malala’ by it. Later, this was corrected with an explanation that it was a clerical mistake.

However, Anupama told The Federal that she strongly believes that it was a deliberate attempt to hide the true identity of the baby and to create a false identity with an intention to hide the evidence.  The Council, in due course, surrendered the baby into the adoption pool and registered him with the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA). A couple based out of Andhra Pradesh expressed interest in adopting the baby.

Meanwhile, in April 2021, Anupama lodged a complaint with the Child Welfare Committee of Thiruvananthapuram district, saying her child was forcefully taken away by her family. While raising this complaint, she had no idea where her child was. Despite having this complaint on record, the District Child Welfare Committee ignored it and went ahead with the adoption process.

Required documents

A few records are required for making an adoption legally sound. One is the report of the Child Welfare Committee of the district the child belongs to. Another document is the SIR (Social Information Report) to be filed by the concerned police station. In addition to these, a report from the CWC of the District where the adoptive parents live is also required.

After getting all these documents, the concerned family court has to give the final order granting permission for adoption. An adoption deed between the adoption agency (here, the State Child Welfare Council) and the adoptive parents is the final step, after which the adoptive parents get the baby permanently.

Before the final order is being given, the child is given to the adopting parents for foster care. Anupama’s child is now under the foster care of the Andhra Pradesh couple. The family court has ordered status quo so in this regard, keeping the child with the adoptive parents for the time being.

“It is a criminal act on the side of the Child Welfare Council and the police to go ahead with the adoption process despite being fully aware that the biological mother is desperately searching for her baby,” said PE Usha, a gender rights activist who has been supporting Anupama in the case. According to Usha, there is a criminal conspiracy behind this and whoever is responsible needs to be called out.

Political influence

Those who support Anupama raise the allegation that a criminal conspiracy has been hatched by local CPI(M) leaders to keep the baby away from his mother. It is alleged that the Child Welfare Council under the Women and Child Development Department connived with Anupama’s father due to his political influence, and thus deliberately pushed the adoption process.

Shiju Khan, Chairman of the State Child Welfare Council, did not respond though The Federal repeatedly tried to get his response. The family court has asked the Council to explain whether the baby was abandoned or surrendered.

Anupama’s father Jayachandran has claimed that she had signed a consent letter to surrender the baby and it was done by her voluntarily. However, Anupama denied this allegation. She said she wanted everyone who was an accomplice in the snatching away of her son to face the consequences. She will pursue her criminal complaint against her father and other family members, she added.

Social media trial

Ever since she approached the media for support, Anupama has been facing severe criticism and trolling on the internet for being an unwed mother.

“The moral trial on this woman, the questions on her past and the abuses showered on her is sheer violence and absolute nonsense,” said P Geetha, a feminist activist and writer. “This is being done with an intention to cover up the organised crime committed by politicians and the State agencies together. The District Child Welfare Committee and the State Child Welfare Council have partnered in this crime and have to be exposed before the court of law.”

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