This story by Aletta André
An Indian couple whose son was kidnapped in 1999 want to know whether he was later adopted in the Netherlands. On Tuesday, they will be going to the court in the Dutch town of Lelystad to demand a DNA test. If it turns out that the 12-year-old boy is indeed their child, they want contact with him.
More than ten years ago, Nagarani and Kathirvel woke to find their youngest son missing. They live in a slum district in the southern Indian city of Chennai and had decided to sleep outside because of the heat. In the morning, their 18-month-old son Sateesh had disappeared.
In an article that appeared at the end of last month, The Times of India wrote that
“it was the beginning of a bitter, traumatic battle” to get their son back. The first thing they had to do was find him. In 2005, their search, via a photograph in the database of an adoption bureau, led them to a Dutch couple. This event heralded the start of their second battle, to get him back. In a 2005 interview with a television station, his mother Nagarani said, “I don’t care what the judge says, I just want him back.” She now wants a DNA test carried out by an independent body and, depending on the results, contact with her son.
Right to know
Sujata Mody, a social worker assisting the family, says:
“As his biological parents, they have the right to know how their child is doing. We don’t think this will cause the boy any suffering. It will just make everything clear. He has to know that his biological parents didn’t want to get rid of him.”
Nagarani and Kathirvel will fly to the Netherlands on Sunday morning; their passports and visas were arranged at the last minute with the help of the Dutch embassy in India. Ms Mody says, “We hope that the adoptive parents will accept that a DNA test is in the interests of all the parties,” and adds that the biological mother has not completely given up hope of getting her missing son back.
“From a legal standpoint, she never gave her son up for adoption, and therefore, the adoption was illegal. However, she does understand that her son has become attached to his adoptive mother and Nagarani doesn’t want to cause her son any pain or unhappiness.”
There has been little media coverage of the case in India, but those who know about it are sympathetic.
“Purely on the basis of the rights of the child, this boy cannot be expected to return to India,” says Bhuwan Ribhu, legal advisor for Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), a Delhi-based organisation that fights for the rights of children.
“He believes the people in the Netherlands are his parents. This should be respected. However, the biological parents have rights too. When a stolen child is found, it is always reunited with its parents. Visiting rights and regular contact is the least they can expect and, in this case, it’s not a bad idea.”
According to BBA, 45,000 children go missing in India every year. Most of them end up being sold into slavery or prostitution, but some are adopted. In 2005, Malaysian Social Services, the agency that arranged Sateesh’s adoption in the Netherlands, was accused of having ties with child traffickers. The agency was responsible for 350 international adoptions and at least two other children from India ended up in the Netherlands without the consent of their biological parents.
“These children have now grown up. They have had contact with their Indian mother through letters and via Skype,” says Ms Mody.
She regularly meets adopted people from all over the world looking for their biological parents in India.
“Usually we cannot trace the parents anymore. But we do frequently find out that the parents did not give up their children voluntarily.”
The arrest of the director of Malaysian Social Services in 2005 resulted in a number of investigative articles about dubious adoption practices. According to Indian law, adoption agencies are not allowed to accept donations and are not permitted to charge more than 3,500 US dollars. But these rules are often ignored. According to Ms Mody’s investigations, the fees foreign parents pay for an adoption vary from between 10,000 to 50,000 dollars.
In this case, the Dutch parents adopted their son according to the rules. Up to now they have refused to cooperate. The boy is said to be unwilling to take a DNA test.
“I don’t feel any anger towards the Dutch couple,” Nagarani told The Sunday Times last week.
“But I would like him to know both sets of parents, and I want to tell him that his biological parents did everything to find him.”