Indian family in fight to repatriate stolen daughter

Date February 19,  2013
ON the right hand side are the parents Fatima and Salya attend the High Court in India in 2010 as part of their struggle to get access to their daughter.

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.