No action by police: Kerala mother begins hunger strike for missing child

Anupama and her partner Ajith are in search of their child whom her father, a local CPI(M) leader, gave up for adoption.
Anupama, mother of missing child in Kerala, protesting in front of the state Secretariat
Anupama, mother of missing child in Kerala, protesting in front of the state Secretariat
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The busy junction in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram was particularly crowded on Saturday, October 23. Anupama, a Thiruvananthapuram native, has begun a hunger strike in front of the administrative headquarters of the state demanding action against the police and other officers who sat on her complaint of her missing baby for months.

The story of Anupama and her partner Ajith’s child, given up for adoption by her father Jayachandran, a local CPI(M) leader, has created ripples in the state in the past few days. Though the couple had filed a complaint at the Peroorkada police station and the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in the state back in April no action had been taken for long. The police filed the First Information Report (FIR) in the case on Monday, October 18, after the controversy broke out, with several media covering it. 

“I had complained at the Peroorkada police station in April and they didn’t act on a missing person complaint for all these months. Now the FIR has been filed, but still no investigation has begun. Would they act like this on all similar complaints? To get back my child I will move legally, but the hunger strike is against those offices that erred in action. They are holding responsible positions and should act in a responsible manner,” she told TNM amid the protest.

The issue has been brought to public attention by Malayalam television channel Asianet News with a discussion on their prime time show The News Hour. Jayachandran during the television show had admitted that he gave up the child for adoption and that he did that with the consent of Anupama. But later he changed the claim saying that the child was handed over to the Child Welfare Committee for adoption.

Anupama had alleged that Shiju Khan JS, the General Secretary of Kerala State Council for Child Welfare, helped her father to give her child up for adoption without her consent. CWC chairperson N Sunanda had first claimed that the Committee had got two kids at Ammathottil in October 2020. Ammathottil is an electronic cradle set up in front of the Kerala State Council for Child Welfare office in Thiruvananthapuram where newborn kids can be given up by those who are not able to raise a child.

According to Sunanda the two kids were received a couple of days after Anupama's child was born. One of the children was adopted after the CWC declared it Legally Safe for Adoption in April. However, on Friday, Sunanda said that the child was given up for adoption as Anupama didn't give a proper explanation while the process was initiated. 

“I gave a complaint to Sunanda in April. At that time there was a quarantine (COVID-19) issue and hence I spoke to her on a video call. After that when I asked for a date to meet, she told me that there was no use in meeting her in person as the police was yet to find where the child was. Later we went to the CWC many times to give applications for conducting DNA tests on the other child that was left at the Ammathottil and who was still with the CWC. I saw the child at the CWC but I felt that it wasn’t my kid. Even so, I couldn’t take a risk and hence applied for a DNA test,” she said.

The DNA test however returned negative. 

 “I really fear that the child was given to someone, not through adoption. But every place I approached for help, I was told to enquire at Ammathottil and that is why I am going after that as I have no other choice,” Anupama said.

While some believe that Jayachandran took away the child from Anupama to save the family’s honour it’s also rumoured that he did it because Ajith is a Dalit Christian and the former belongs to the Hindu Ezhava community. “I never felt in the past that my father had casteist thoughts but after the issue emerged he began talking in that way. It’s only because of caste that he couldn’t accept our relationship. How would he accept the kid, if he can’t accept the relationship? Also, they were worried about the family honour since I was having a child out of wedlock,” she said when asked if her father was a casteist.

On Friday Health Minister Veena George ordered a department level enquiry into the issue. On Saturday CPI(M) acting state Secretary A Vijayaraghavan said that the party will support Anupama. “What is the point in the party supporting me without taking any action on my complaints when I gave it to them. I didn’t get any response for so long. My parents are still holding positions in the party. If the party is honest about backing me, action should be taken against my parents,” she said.

Anupama gave birth to the child on October 19, 2020; but she was separated from the newborn three days after the child was born.  Anupama has countered her father's claim that she and Ajith gave consent to give up their child for adoption. She alleged that her parents forcibly took her baby away. The couple had approached the Chief Minister, various other ministers and the police to know where the kid was, but in vain. The couple alleged that their search for their child didn't turn fruitful as Jayachandran has the backing of the party.

Both Anupama and Ajith are natives of Peroorkada. They fell in love while Ajith was still married to another woman and was going through a divorce. She got pregnant but the pregnancy was hidden from the parents as they were opposed to the relationship. 

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