It has been one hell of a fight for Sanju to reunite with his son and wife Soniya

A Kerala fathers fight to be with his child abandoned by wifes family in an orphanagePhoto : Shiyaz Basheer
news Thursday, June 30, 2016 - 08:08

Sanju Sunny cannot hold back his tears when he talks to The News Minute about how he had to wage a prolonged legal battle that started on the day his son was born, just to ensure that his child was not brought up as an orphan.

It was only one and a half years after the birth of his son -Emmauel Sanju- on June 23 to be precise, that he saw his son for the first time. The child was finally handed over to the father on June 25 by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Thodupuzha.

It was in 2013 that Sanju who hailed from an economically poor background and Soniya Mary Simon -the proverbial rich man’s daughter- got married under the Special Marriage Act, following objections from the girl’s family. They continued to live separately even after marriage, only because they wanted Soniya’s family to bless the union before enjoying marital bliss.

“Since the register marriage was over, her family approached us and agreed to conduct the wedding in the church. But later I came to know that they were trying to make Soniya change her mind, and so brought her home,” Sanju shares.

“Her father Simon Ilavankal and her brother however continued to force her to submit to a divorce. They were so fanatically against me that they even told her that I was possessed by a demon,” he shudders.

The couple continued to face a lot of threats from Soniya’s family. Soniya’s brother, Sobin once even hit her with a car. “We just could not live in peace and Soniya used to end up crying all night,” Sanju says.

Amidst all this turmoil, Soniya conceived in April 2014. And suddenly, Soniya wanted to meet her mother: “I thought that was normal, as all girls love to have their mothers with them, especially at the time of pregnancy.”

Soniya then proceeded to her parents’ home in September 2014, as is the usual custom followed in Kerala households, where the woman leaves her husband’s family to be with her birth-family for her delivery.

At that time, Sanju had no inkling that this would spell the end of his family life with Soniya. “A couple of weeks later, she rang me up and told me that her parents were compelling her to break all contact with me. Her mobile was switched off and that was the last I heard from her,” Sanju remembers.

Since then Sanju has been in search of his wife. He even went to her place a couple of times. “They threatened me and told me that Soniya herself wanted to end the relationship. I was shattered and did not know what to do. When I met an advocate, he said that it might just be a scare tactic and that after delivery, my wife and kid would return home to me,” he rues.

Sanju registered his complaint at the police station, made enquiries wherever possible, but all he could ascertain was that Soniya was not with her parents. It was on January 12, 2015 that Sanju received a message from the National Health Rural Mission (NHRM), intimating him of the birth of his child.

“I was however totally clueless on the whereabouts of the mother and child. When I went to her house again, they told me that they would kill me. And from what I could gather from their neighbours, the baby was definitely not there,” he recalls.

It was then Sanju received a divorce notice from Soniya, leaving him utterly broken. “When I finally met her during the counselling session at the family court in August 2015, I cried and told her how I had spent the last year in search of her and my baby. All my queries to her were left unanswered. She would not look at me. All she said was that I had abandoned her. She also had wounds on her face and neck. I asked her about it, but that too was met with silence. In the end, she left the court without telling me anything,” Sanju breaks into a sob.

It has been one hell of a fight for Sanju to reunite with his son and wife. That is when he filed a habeas corpus writ in the Kerala High Court.

“As per the reply to the writ, baby Emmanuel was initially in a day-care centre called Karuna Bhawan in Rajakad, when in a surprise raid by the state Child Protection Council (CPC), Emmanuel along with five other infants, were transferred to the Child Welfare Committee in Thodupuzha.”

Sanju knew that Karuna Bhawan was an orphanage and not a day-care centre run by a lady named Tresa whom he knew even before his marriage and who was a close family friend of Soniya.

He then approached the CWC only to be abused and threatened even more. He bore all for the sake of his son. It was only much later that he got back his son with the complete support of the CPC officials.

When Sanju laid eyes on his son Emmanuel for the very first time, he touched his son’s feet and asked forgiveness, “I can’t believe that my son was abandoned in an orphanage, despite me being alive. That is why I wanted to apologize to him,” he weeps loudly.

What adds to his frustration is that the stint in the orphanage seems to have ruined his son’s health: “My son is not able to walk properly and his legs seem weak. He also seems to suffer from quite a few ailments. When I had enquired at the hospital, I was told that he was born healthy.”

As per the report submitted in the High Court, Soniya’s family claims that she has gone to Canada to pursue higher studies. “I don’t think that Soniya has gone to Canada. I have strong reasons to believe that she is somewhere here in Kerala itself. Someone told me she is in a convent somewhere near Thamarassery.  She could have tried and contacted me at least once,” Sanju relapses into helpless silence.


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