Jayachandran has publicly called the child ‘illegal’, and has accepted that he gave him away. The child’s mother says she never agreed to give up her son.

Anupama and Ajith, a photo taken during a function
news Controversy Monday, October 18, 2021 - 19:01

Anupama and Ajith’s baby will be a year old on October 19. But instead of celebrating the milestone, the parents will spend the day wondering where he is. Three days after Anupama gave birth to a baby boy on October 19, 2020, she was separated from her newborn. She has spent nearly every day since then trying to get her parents, who allegedly forcibly took her baby away, to tell her where he is.

Anupama and her partner Ajith have approached the police, the Chief Minister of Kerala, various ministers, and CPI(M) leaders in the state — but to no avail. Her father Jayachandran is a local committee member of the Peroorkada CPI(M) and General Secretary of Thiruvananthapuram Centre of India Trade Unions (CITU) — which is why the ruling dispensation is protecting him, Anupama and Ajith allege.

At the time of writing, Jayachandran has accepted on camera that he gave up the child for adoption. He claims he did this with Anupama’s consent, and that he has a note signed by her claiming she was mentally unstable. Anupama and Ajith say they never consented to giving up their child. The Child Welfare Committee in the state says they never received a child for adoption from Jayachandran. And while there are police complaints, there is no action at all against Jayachandran — not even a hint that any action is being considered.

The snatching of Anupama’s baby

Anupama fell in love with Ajith and became pregnant in 2020, she says. The two of them were residents of Peroorkada in Thiruvananthapuram, and Anupama chose not to reveal her pregnancy to her parents — who she was living with at the time — because they were opposed to her relationship with Ajith. While Anupama and her family belong to the Ezhava caste, Ajith is a Dalit Christian who was still married at the time, and going through a divorce. During the eighth month of her pregnancy, Ajith and Anupama revealed the truth to her parents as he decided to take her away with him.

“When she was eight months pregnant, I went to her house and took her away. Until then her parents were not even aware that she was pregnant,” Ajith tells TNM. “After leaving home, we went for a health checkup, and later when Anupama called them to inform them that she was fine, her parents asked her to come back home and live with them. They pleaded that she should stay back with them till her sister’s wedding was solemnised.”

Anupama’s sister’s wedding had been fixed for a few months later. “My parents told me they will advance it, they said they will not harm me or my child, and I agreed to go with them,” says Anupama.

But according to Ajith, the moment Anupama went back with her parents, their attitude changed. “They took her to a hospital in Malappuram and tried to make her undergo abortion,” he alleges, “but she disagreed strongly. She was, however, admitted to another hospital as she tested positive for the novel coronavirus.”

“When she recovered, I went to take her back with me. The police also intervened and told her parents that she can go with anyone she wants. Her mother, however, pleaded saying that the father had a cardiac condition and they wanted Anupama back home,” Ajith says.

Two weeks before her due date, Anupama was hospitalised and she gave birth to the child with a cesarean procedure. “I was discharged from the hospital three days after the delivery. My parents didn't take me back home, instead I was taken to my dad’s friend’s house,” she says.

“While we were on the way, my father, mother, sister and her fiance said that the baby would be taken away and would be handed back to me only after the wedding. We stayed at that friend's house for a few weeks and then I was taken back home. They locked me in a room and did not let me talk to anyone,” Anupama says.

The empty promises and imprisonment

Anupama alleges that her mother kept reassuring her that she would be reunited with the baby. She also alleges that a few days after she gave birth to her child, her parents threatened her and took her signatures on a document, claiming it was to do with property to be given to the elder sister. Anupama’s father Jayachandran however told Asianet News that Anupama signed a document in front of a notary, declaring that she was not mentally or financially capable of looking after a child, and therefore wanted the child to be given away to the state.

“If such things happen in any family, there can be many opinions in a family and people may have different opinions on how to save a family’s honour. The child was given away as Anupama herself agreed,” Jayachandran said in the interview, calling the baby an ‘illegal child’ in the process. Despite this admission, there is no action against Jayachandran so far.

Both Anupama and Ajith have denied categorically that they consented to giving the baby up. Anupama says she was never allowed to even step out of her home alone. “Even if you believe their version that I didn’t want the baby — what about Ajith? What about his rights as a biological parent? Why was he not asked?” she asks.

“People are now asking me why I didn’t try to contact Ajith during these months. How could I? One of them — my father, mother or sister — would always accompany me if I was even allowed out. They took me to a few houses while distributing wedding invites, but they behaved as if nothing happened and told me not to speak,” she says.

Anupama’s escape and complaint

It was only in March 2021 that Anupama was able to escape from her house and contact Ajith. Ajith got a divorce from his wife in January 2021 and had tried to meet Anupama in February 2021, but was unsuccessful. “I also thought about letting the sister’s wedding get over. It was only when she managed to escape in March 2021 did I realise that our baby had been taken away. At the end of March, we approached the police, but they have not filed an FIR till now,” he says.

In the past few months, the couple have written to many CPI(M) leaders, including Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, CPI(M) State Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, LDF Convener Vijayaraghavan, Director General of Police, and others. “It was only Brinda Karat who responded to our complaint and referred it to CPI(M) leader Sreemathi teacher, who too did not help,” the couple allege.

A police officer TNM spoke to said that Jayachandran has produced the notarised document and a preliminary probe was still on.

Where is Anupama and Ajith’s baby?

It is unclear where the couple’s baby is currently. To a query by Asianet News, Anupama’s father Jayachandran is heard saying that he took “all steps legally” and gave the child away for its own protection as Anupama could not look after him, neither could they. However, in The News Hour discussion, Jayachandran first says that the child was abandoned with the ‘Ammathottil scheme’ and later claims it was handed over to the Child Welfare Committee.

Apart from the discrepancies in the statement, the two are very different processes. If the child was given to ‘Ammathotthil’, an electronic cradle functioning under Kerala State Council for Child Welfare, then no letter is required from the parents as anyone can abandon a child at the cradle.

Instead, if Jayachandran surrendered the child to the CWC using the notarised statement, then CWC in Kerala will have to answer why they did not follow due procedure.

Child Welfare Committee (CWC) chairperson Advocate N Sunanda tells TNM that the child was not surrendered to the CWC. “If the child was surrendered to us, we would have met the mother, our rules mandate so. In April 2021, this couple did approach me, saying their baby had been taken away. They did not know any identification marks on the baby. Going by the timeline that she gave birth in October 2020, two infants were abandoned at Ammathottil in Thiruvananthapuram. One infant had been given away for adoption while we did DNA tests on the other baby. Those tests came negative,” she says.

Sunanda added that only a police investigation can prove where the child is and who Jayachandran handed over the child to. “Now even if it is proved that the child was abandoned and later given away for adoption, it is tough for the biological parents to get him back. There was a similar case in which the Kerala High Court had ruled that the biological parents should get the child, but the Supreme Court has put a stay on it,” she explains.

According to CWC’s rules, a parent or guardian, who for physical, emotional and social factors beyond their control, wishes to surrender a child, has to produce the child before the Committee. The CWC has to conduct an inquiry and counselling, and the surrender deed can be executed only if the committee is satisfied. Moreover, the parents or guardian who surrendered the child, shall be given two months to reconsider their decision. Neither Anupama nor Ajith was contacted by the CWC, they say.

Another child protection officer TNM spoke to points out that Jayachandran could have readied the notarised letter in order to avoid legal troubles in future, and could have dropped the child in an Ammathottil to ensure his daughter couldn’t have a say in the matter.

Journalist Padma Priya, who runs the popular podcast platform Suno India and runs a deep dive podcast “Dear Pari” on child adoption, says that Anupama’s case points to many anomalies. “It’s a classic case of an unwed mother’s child being taken away. One reason why cradle baby schemes have been criticised is because they encourage such sort of abandonment, they legitimise it. In this case, there seems to be enough grounds for a criminal probe on Anupama’s parents,” she points out.

“Where is my baby? I was not even allowed to breastfeed him. Now, no one wants to help me, no one in any authority is even willing,” says Anupama, even as she and Ajith get ready to approach the court.

 
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