India is looking to find a way forward in Baby Ariha case: MEA

MEA responds to The New Indian’s query, saying it is a sensitive case and they are deeply concerned with the development

NEW DELHI | Updated: 27 February, 2023 12:26 am IST

As the heartrending case of Baby Ariha startled the country, the Ministry of External Affairs said that it is a sensitive case and they are deeply concerned about it.

MEA’s response came following a query from The New Indian. The MEA further said that they are “taking up the case with German authorities to find a way forward”.

In a case that could even melt an iron heart, the Indian parents of two-year-old Ariha Shah have been struggling for more than a year to get custody of their child, who is in foster care in Berlin, Germany. Ariha’s father was posted in Germany on a work visa as a software engineer.

In 2021, Ariha’s parents, Bhavesh and Dhara Shah, were unbelievably accused of sexually assaulting their little daughter. Ariha was immediately put into foster care.

In February 2022, the criminal investigation was closed without any charges. Incidentally, experts from the same hospital, that accused Shahs of sexual assault later gave them a clean chit. The couple said despite the criminal investigation being closed, they still haven’t got their daughter back.

To make things worse for the Shahs, Berlin Child Services filed a civil custody case for the parental rights to be terminated. Since then, Ariha has been living in a foster home.

Speaking to The New Indian, Bhavesh said, “I fear that Child Services are dragging it out to take advantage of the “continuity principle” of child law, under which if a child has spent significant time with the state-appointed carer, it is said to be settled there and should not be shifted back to the parents, even if they are found to be fit.”

Dhara burst into tears as he pleaded, “I request PM Modi and the Indian Government to bring back my daughter to India. To help us bring her and us back to India.”

“If in the past, governments were successful against other countries, why not this Bharat ki Beti? We have high hopes from you, PM Modiji. Please help my daughter. Bring her back to her own country,” a sobbing Dhara said.

When The New Indian highlighted the plea of the heartbroken parents to the Ministry of External Affairs, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said the issue of baby Ariha Shah’s custody case is being closely pursued by New Delhi with the German authorities.

“This is something of great sensitivity, something about which we are deeply concerned, something about which our Embassy has been in very close contact with the parents, with German authorities, and trying to find a way forward,” Kwatra said.

“You would agree that since it involves a baby, an infant child, there are serious issues related to privacy. I don’t think it would be correct for me to comment on those parts. But this is something that we deeply care about and are very sensitive to. We are regularly in close touch with the parents related to this case,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ariha’s parents are also worried, as they said that the German child services are giving her eggs, which is against their faith.

“They are completely insensitive to the baby’s cultural and religious identity. They are insisting on a non-vegetarian diet for her, though she comes from an observant Jain family. This is also a violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which both India and Germany are parties,” Shahs said.

This is also a key reason that the Shahs are asking for the baby to be repatriated to India and placed with the maternal family or a Jain family under the care and responsibility of Indian child welfare authorities.

Incidentally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met German chancellor Olaf Scholz on Saturday. Ahead of the German Chancellor’s visit to India, it was #BoycotGermany that was trending on Twitter, with a massive protest in Mumbai to raise voices for justice for Ariha.

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