It was a heart-wrenching death for five-month-old Rookiya, who was drowned by her own mother in Amruthanagar in Andhra’s Kadapa district on Friday.
Rookiya’s mother, Shaik Fatima, allegedly took the extreme step because the family could not afford to provide the kind of medical care that the infant, who suffered from an undiagnosed condition, required.
Five-month-old Rookiya was reportedly born with a congenital ailment that caused her head to keep swelling larger. Her parents – 30-year-old Shaik Gaibusha, who runs a roadside bicycle puncture shop, and 28-year-old Fatima, a daily wage labourer – had taken the infant to several hospitals in nearby Proddutur town, but her condition had not improved.
Due to their extreme poverty, they could not afford to take the child to larger urban hospitals to find the treatment that could cure little Rookiya.
Besides Rookiya, the couple have two sons aged five years and four years.
Police said that Rookiya’s death came to light on Friday, following a complaint from Gaibusha. On Friday afternoon, Gaibusha went to the local mosque to offer Namaz. When he returned home, he found his wife Fatima crying, claiming that Rookiya was missing.
Following Gaibusha’s complaint, the Proddutur (Rural) police searched the neighbourhood. With no sign of the infant, and suspecting Fatima’s claims, they then searched the family’s home and found Rookiya drowned in a water tub. When the police interrogated Fatima, she broke down and confessed to killing her daughter.
Sub Inspector Chandrashekar of the Proddutur (Rural) police station told TNM, "She told us that they were not in a position to take her (Rookiya) to a good hospital, and feeling hopeless in the circumstances, she resorted to killing her child."
He added, "Besides the economic compulsion, she (Fatima) could not bear the stigma of her child being seen as a 'dayyam pilla' (demon child) in the neighborhood, she confessed."
Based on Gaibusha’s complaint, the police registered a case under Section 302 (Punishment for murder) of the IPC, and Fatima is to be sent to remand on Sunday.
On how the case against Fatima will proceed, Circle Inspector Obulesu of Pruddutur (Rural) said, "As far as the law is concerned, we are taking the required steps. The court will consider the questions of legal aid and bail, given the situation and the circumstances which led her to commit the crime. The court may choose to treat her kindly if she puts her situation in front of them.”
T Mamata, the Project Director for the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Kadapa district, said the incident was deeply saddening and the child’s life may have been saved if the matter had come to the notice of the concerned authorities earlier.
“If they would have brought the baby to the district hospital, she could have been cured. This is so shocking,” Mamata said.
“No one has the right to kill an infant. The district has four childcare centres if parents find it impossible to look after their children," she added.
Mamata also said that the government had launched a 24x7 help line for such purposes. “Parents can call 1098 and we will listen to any problems or complaints they have.”