Give the child back to Anupama: India’s top academics write to Pinarayi Vijayan

Anupama S Chandran
Former SFI leader Anupama S Chandran with her husband Ajith protesting in front of the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, seeking their child back as she alleged that the newborn was taken away from her illegally. Photo: Manoj Chemancheri

Leading academics have written strongly-worded letters to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, urging him to help Anupama Chandran get her child back after it was given for adoption by her parents without her consent.

Anupama, 22, has been on a hunger strike at Thiruvananthapuram since October 23, demanding action against the police and Kerala Council for Child Welfare.

Economist Padmini Swaminathan, in her letter, stated that social scientists have always held Kerala as a beacon of social development, but she was left numb and shattered after reading about the incident.

“That the entire state machinery, ostensibly at the behest of parents who are important functionaries in the ruling party, has been deployed to not only keep the baby, mother and father apart but hem them in such a way that redressal will require untangling of very many complex issues that have deliberately been tied together, reveals the deep and destructive patriarchal underpinnings of the party and family. It is clear there is connivance all round so that ‘deviants’ like Anupama and Ajith are taught a lesson and the ‘honour’ of Anupama’s natal family is ‘restored’,” she wrote.

She said the child's biological parents are not minors. “On what basis then, and, on whose complaint has the state set in motion this complex multi-agency operation? Needless to state, it is not only the honour of the ruling party that is at stake here; this is a clear case of a criminal offence involving kidnapping, stealing and abduction of a child from its lawful guardians,” she said.

She concluded the letter asking Vijayan whether she could expect him to exercise his authority. “As the head of the country’s most progressive state may we expect, sir, that you will exercise your authority and end this mother’s search and restore her child to her.”

Mohan Rao, a former professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, said in his letter that he is an admirer of Kerala’s vast achievements in social development, but the news of the forcible removal of a young infant for adoption shocked him.

“That this has been done at the behest of the grandparents of the infant seeking to protect their family “honour”, in Kerala, is even more shocking. While I am aware that patriarchy is strongly embedded in the social fabric of Kerala, it is in Kerala that we expect the fight against entrenched patriarchy to begin, led by progressive forces that believe in equality and justice that includes gender equality and gender justice,” he wrote.

He stated that there can be no justification at all for the acts of the parents of the young mother. “The perversion of the state machinery to help them under the watch of a left government must be speedily remedied. The officials of the Child Welfare Committee who have obviously connived in this matter must be removed from their positions until the inquiry is complete. Indeed, letting them stay in their positions only allows the injustice to be perpetrated,” he wrote.

Rao pointed out that the issue is not merely one of restoring a child to its true parents. “It is about the misuse of government machinery to achieve a socially-regressive end and about the use of misinformation and sheer bureaucratic delay to slow down and thereby deny justice to the aggrieved. The prospect of tyranny is thereby advanced — and this is no honour for a communist government that holds out the hope of redemption from right-wing oppression,” he stated.

He appealed to Vijayan to restore the confidence of the aggrieved couple by “taking necessary steps to prevent manipulation of the reversal of adoption proceedings by the suspect officials and to ensure transparent procedures and speedy justice.”

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