Summoned German Ambassador to push for Baby Ariha’s return: MEA

Summoned German Ambassador to push for Baby Ariha’s return: MEA

MEA’s statement came as opposition MPs stepped up campaign for return of child to India, who has been taken from parents due to allegations of abuse 

Amidst calls by the opposition for the government to take up the case of Baby Ariha Shah, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday said that it had summoned the German Ambassador over the 2-year-old child’s situation in foster care in Germany.

The disclosure came a day after Ariha’s mother Dhara Shah met with Members of Parliament to appeal for help, and at the very least for India to press for Ariha to be transferred to a foster home in India, where she can be raised as an Indian and amidst her own Jain community.

‘Cultural rights infringed’

“At a minimum we believe this child’s cultural rights and rights as an Indian are being infringed upon by her being placed in German foster care,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi told reporters, adding that the 2021 case was being accorded “high priority”. 

“The German Ambassador to India was summoned this week and our concerns were clearly conveyed to him. We have also asked for the early return of the child to India and we will continue to press German authorities on this matter,” he said, indicating the widening diplomatic differences between New Delhi and Berlin over the case.

According to sources, German Ambassador Phillip Ackerman was summoned by Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra on Monday, and the latest developments in the case were discussed. In an order on June 13, a court in Berlin held that Baby Ariha, who was then 8 months old, had suffered brutal injuries while in the care of her parents Dhara and Bhavesh Shah, a charge they have denied. Recording the nature of injuries reported in graphic detail, the court had decided that the child’s guardianship would be given to German Youth Services (Jugendamt), who had taken Ariha from the parents in September 2021 and have placed her at a foster home since then. The court also rejected the plea for her return to India to stay with an Indian foster family. 

Diplomatic options

Despite Ariha being an Indian citizen, German family law does not permit her travelling out of the Jugendamt’s jurisdiction, and any further action would necessitate the case being considered at a higher or even political level. Sources said that Indian and German diplomats have discussed a number of options to ensure that the child is raised as far as possible with a connection to India, and she is reportedly being given a vegetarian diet as per her family’s traditional preferences. 

Ariha’s parents, who are now pursuing a legal appeal in the German court that could take months to be heard, have taken their plea to various officials and political leaders since the order was handed down in June. They met Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, and nearly 20 Members of Parliament from the Opposition parties in Delhi, and have requested a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In Frankfurt, an Indian diaspora group also held a protest in support of the couple. 

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