Date: June 3, 2023
In a remarkable display of cross-party unity, 59 Members of Parliament (MPs) from 19 political parties in India have come together to demand the repatriation of baby Ariha Shah, who has been living in foster care in Berlin for over 20 months. In a joint letter addressed to Germany’s ambassador in India, the MPs emphasized the importance of bringing Ariha back to her own country, people, culture, and environment, citing the potential irreparable harm caused by any further delay.
Among the signatories of the letter are MPs from prominent parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Indian National Congress, Left, and the Trinamool Congress (TMC), highlighting the wide-ranging support for the cause. The Indian government has also officially requested Germany to allow Ariha’s return, asserting that it is her inalienable right as an Indian national.
The background of Ariha’s case reveals that her parents, a couple from Gujarat who moved to Germany in 2018, have been engaged in a legal battle for custody of their daughter for the past 21 months. The German authorities took custody of Ariha after she suffered an accidental injury on September 23, 2021, when she was only seven months old. However, the police case was closed in February 2022 without any charges against the parents. Despite this, Ariha has not been returned to her parents, and German Child Services sought permanent custody of the child through the German courts.
The MPs emphasized that the evaluation of the parents by a court-appointed psychologist was completed in December 2022, who recommended that the child should be placed with either parent in a parent-and-child facility under supervision. However, before the court issued any orders, the German Child Services removed Ariha to a special needs facility, which the MPs argue is unnecessary and potentially harmful to the child’s well-being. They also highlighted the heart-wrenching videos of the parents’ fortnightly visits, which illustrate the deep bonds and pain of separation experienced by Ariha and her parents.
Furthermore, the MPs raised concerns about the cultural aspects of Ariha’s upbringing in foster care. Coming from a Jain family, strict vegetarians, they pointed out that she was being fed non-vegetarian food, which goes against their cultural norms. They urged the German authorities to consider how their country would feel if a German baby were forcibly kept in Indian foster care.
The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, echoed the sentiments of the MPs and stressed the importance of Ariha being in her linguistic, religious, cultural, and social environment. The Indian government has formally requested Ariha’s return to a Jain foster family in India under the supervision of Indian child welfare authorities.
As the joint letter from the MPs and the Indian government’s formal request highlight, repatriating Ariha Shah to India is not just a legal matter but a moral imperative that takes into account the child’s well-being, cultural identity, and familial bonds. It remains to be seen how Germany will respond to this united call from Indian lawmakers and the government, but the Indian authorities and MPs remain resolute in their commitment to securing the return of Ariha to her home country.
Sources by agencies.