Adoption victim meets her mother after 9 years

Date: 2005-12-25

Dec. 25: A 17-year-old girl who was fraudulently given away in adoption when she was eight met her mother after nearly nine years. The meeting was initiated by her adoptive parents, Americans from Alabama in the United States. In 1996 Ms Lakshmi, a resident of Jogipet in Medak district, sent her two daughters Manjula and Bhagya to Action for Social Development at Gandhi Nagar in Hyderabad. Her neighbour in Jogipet, Fatima Bee, told her that the two children would be looked after well and given good education. She also reportedly signed some papers and paid Rs 800 for travel expenses. A year later, Ms Lakshmi went to the hostel to meet them but was reportedly shown her children from a distance. That was the last time that Ms Lakshmi saw her daughters. When she went to the hostel a few months later, she was reportedly told that her children had been sent abroad for higher education. Ms Lakshmi was waiting for word from her daughters ever since. In November, suddenly, things started happening. Social activist Gita Ramaswamy, who has campaigned against inter-country adoptions got a letter from one Mr David Smolin and Ms Desiree Smolin of Alabama in the US ad-dressed to Ms Lakshmi. She traced Ms Lakshmi to Erraram village in Jogipet and gave her the letter. The Smolins wrote that they were given Manjula and Bhagya for adoption on November 18, 1998, by John Abraham Memorial Bethany Home in Tandur. “We adopted Manjula and Bhagya, because we were told that they needed a home and a family,” Mr Smolin wrote to Ms Lakshmi. They also had to pay $5,000 for the adoption.They wrote that from the day the girls were brought to the US, they had been worried about their mother. “Manjula and Bhagya were very sad at first, but now both of them are very happy and are doing very well. They are in school and are getting an education,” he wrote.Following the efforts of Ms Ramaswamy, Mr Smolin, a professor of law at Alabama University, brought Manjula to Hyderabad in the first week of December and went to Erraram village to meet Ms Lakshmi. Manjula rushed into her mother’s arms they cried for a long time. “I never thought I would see my daughter again. I was extremely happy that my daughter has grown up and is longing to meet me even after nine years. I don’t want to lose her again,” Ms Lakshmi said.However, the last nine years had changed Manjula so much that she finds it difficult in the village. She was so disturbed that she hardly spoke to anyone. “She had even forgotten Telugu. She could not answer in detail any of our questions,” Ms Lakshmi said. Inquiries revealed that Ms Fatima Bee used to act on behalf of Action for Social Development chief N. Sanjeeva Rao and both of them conspired to sell Manjula and Bhagya to foreign couples. Since ASD had no licence at that time, it processed the papers through John Abraham Bethany Memorial Home, Tandur, and gave the girls to the Smolins. “I was forced to sign some papers and paid Rs 800 as travel expenses. Th-at’s all I remember,” Lakshmi said. After the inter-country adoption racket was busted in April 2001, the State entrusted the case to the CID. The police arrested Mr Sanjeeva Rao of Action for Social Development and Savitramma of John Abraham Bethany Memorial Home in different cases relating to child trafficking. The accused were let off on bail. The cases are still in progress. Mr Smolin said they were told many lies by Mr Sanjeeva Rao and Ms Savithri (of Tandur Home). “We didn’t know that Manjula and Bhagya had been wrongfully and illegally taken from you when we adopted them. Now, we know that certain people used trickery and lies to take them away from their home and family, and this makes us very angry,” he told Ms Lakshmi.Manjula was in the city for about 10 days and met her mother a couple of times. She left for the US last week, promising to take Ms Lakshmi there. “She promised to send Bhagya in a couple of months,” Ms Lakshmi said. Mr Sanjeeva Rao was not available for comment.\A