- Date February 19, 2013
Fatima (left) and Salya attend the High Court in India in 2010.
AN INDIAN mother, whose child was kidnapped and illegally adopted to Australia, has accused the country’s officials and the girl’s adoptive parents of blocking the now teenager from having contact with her and of making no effort to try and repatriate the girl.
Fatima, who only uses one name, will travel to New Delhi on Tuesday to try and meet with officials and hold a news conference in a bid to be reunited with her daughter Zabeen who was kidnapped by child-stealers near the family home in the slums of Chennai in 1998.
The then two-year-old was sold to a corrupt adoption agency that forged records to make it appear she had been abandoned. She and another child were fraudulently represented as siblings and adopted by a family in Queensland.
Indian police uncovered the scam in 2005 and arrested the child-stealers who provided details of the children who were stolen. Their information was matched with adoption agency records that confirmed Zabeen’s situation, prompting police to alert Australian authorities. They said they would investigate, but did not return the girl to India.
Fatima and her husband Salya, who have three other children, say since then their efforts to be reunited with the girl have been rebuffed by Australian authorities and the girl’s adoptive family while Indian authorities appear powerless to lobby for the girl’s return.
The couple’s only contact after years of lobbying was a short Skype conversation with the girl in September last year and the brief exchange of some photos via email – a communication arranged by European NGO Against Child Trafficking (ACT), which tracks down trafficked Indian children. Following the Skype chat, all other contact was blocked.
Fatima and Salya’s Indian lawyer Selvi Palani this week said the family wanted “steps taken to ensure the child is sent back to them“.
“The family wants nothing except the girl. They say no amount of money can compensate the loss,“ she said.
“All they want is for pictures to be sent to them and for them to be kept informed about what she is doing. They will be happy if the girl visits them as they want to know that she is all right.“
“They were demanding for her to send pictures of her which she also sent at the time. They were of course shocked to see their girl in a bikini as they belong to a conservative Muslim family.“
Ms Palani said the girl may have to give a DNA sample.
On Monday, Fairfax Media tracked down the Australian adoptive parents who said that they had been willing to allow contact between their adoptive daughter and the Indian family, on the grounds that there would be no attempt to forcibly repatriate the girl to India.
But the adoptive father said the biological parents had not agreed to the deal.
“We want to do something. We have been very worried, but we are not going to do anything unless there is an agreement that they would not try and repatriate the girl against her and our will,“ said the adoptive father who cannot be identified under Queensland law.
“We got a lawyer to write a letter to their lawyer seeking this … but we never got a reply.“
The adoptive father said he would not approve a DNA test as he feared the evidence would be grounds for repatriation under international law.