Katihar abandoned baby case: Commodification & bypass of adoption law

Kohima police have 5 people arrested, including father of the newborn

 

Imkong Walling
Dimapur | May 27

The recent incident of a newborn found abandoned at a railway station in Bihar have brought to fore an often overlooked aspect of a compassionate an act as adoption. While the initial suspicion was of kidnapping for trafficking, investigation by the police reveals a case of adoption gone awry or rather ignorance of adoption law.

 

The unnamed baby boy, as per the initial report, was found abandoned at the Katihar railway station on May 10 with a train ticket showing its origination from Dimapur. Following extensive publicity on social media, a woman from Kohima came forward claiming to be the baby’s biological mother on May 11.

 

As the story later unfolded, the baby, who was born in Kohima, was being taken to Bihar by his adoptive mother.

 

According to the police investigation, the baby was given up for adoption after the biological father refused custody of the child.

 

The baby was born after the parents, both residents of Kohima and in their 20s, reportedly had an affair. They parted ways after the woman became pregnant. The two families reached an understanding whereby it was reportedly agreed that gender of the unborn child would determine custodial rights. As the investigation revealed, the verbal agreement was, “If it was a girl, the mother will take custody. If it was a boy, the father will take custody.”

 

As it was a boy, the maternal family gave custody of the newborn to the father’s family. The police said that the child was handed over to the baby’s grand uncle (biological father’s uncle) in Kohima.

 

But the father expressed unwillingness to take custody of his child. The child’s paternal grandmother also reportedly refused to care for the child citing financial hardship, the police added.

 

Meanwhile, a childless elderly couple from Bihar expressed willingness to adopt the baby. As per the police, they were acquaintance of the child’s grand uncle. The two parties reportedly reached a mutual agreement that the baby will be ‘adopted’ by the childless couple.

 

Subsequently, the baby was brought to Dimapur and handed over to the adoptive mother, who came from Bihar.

 

“The adoptive mother (in her 60s), came to Dimapur and was taking the baby to her native place in Bihar when she was detained by railway officials at Katihar,” the police said. The police added that the railway officials reportedly got suspicious that an elderly woman was travelling alone with a newborn and no documents to prove maternity.

 

She was reportedly let off and the baby handed over to the Child Welfare Committee, Katihar, which alerted Childline Dimapur.

 

In the police investigation that followed, 5 people were arrested – the grand uncle, the adoptive parents, the biological father and paternal grandmother. The police investigation thus far has revealed the by-passing of established adoption law. They were charged under relevant sections of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act.

 

As for the child, the Child Welfare Committee, Kohima is coordinating with its Katihar counterpart to escort him to Nagaland. Chairperson of the CWC, Kohima, Khriehuzo Lohe told The Morung Express that they have written to the CWC, Katihar to start repatriation proceedings as mandated by the Juvenile Justice Act.

 

Once in Nagaland, the child will be placed under the care of the CWC, Kohima and handed over to the biological parent(s), Lohe said. As per the rules in the Juvenile Justice Act, the parent(s) are at liberty to give up or “surrender” the child for adoption, if they so wish. However, it must be done only through authorised adoption agencies recognised by the government.

 

CWC of a district is the competent authority that declares a child legally free for adoption.

 

(This is the first part of a two-part series on the case and adoption in the context of Nagaland)