New Delhi: Reports defending the action of a German agency that had taken away an Indian baby girl from her parents in 2021 are inaccurate and appear to be an attempt to obfuscate the issue, government sources said on Saturday.
Ariha Shah was placed in the custody of Germany’s Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) on September 23, 2021 after the baby, who was seven months old then, suffered an accidental injury. She has been in foster care since then.
The sources also said that at “no timely stage” did the German agency share information about any Indian foster family willing to care for the child.
The main issue remains that an Indian child is not being allowed to return to India, they said.
The German authorities placed the child under foster care alleging that her Indian parents harassed her.
On Friday, India urged Germany to send her back at the earliest saying it is important for the child to be in her linguistic, religious, cultural and social environment.
“Reports defending the action of the German Youth Agency in the Ariaha Shah case are inaccurate and appear to be an attempt to obfuscate the issue. The parents were forced to contact the media as the agency was unresponsive,” said a source.
“At no timely stage did the agency share information about any Indian foster family willing to care for the child. Moreover, the main issue remains that an Indian child is not being allowed to return to India,” the source said.
At a media briefing on Friday, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said Ariha’s continued stay in the German foster care and “infringement” of her social, cultural and linguistic rights are of deep concern to the government of India and the parents.
On Thursday, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde wrote a letter to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar seeking his assistance in bringing Ariha back home.
“We would like to reiterate that Ariha Shah is an Indian national and her nationality and socio-cultural background is the most important determinant of where her foster care is to be provided,” Bagchi had said.
“We urge German authorities to do all that is necessary to send Ariha to India at the earliest, which is also her inalienable right as an Indian national. We remain committed to ensuring the return of Ariha Shah to India,” he said.
Bagchi said India was “dismayed to learn that the child was abruptly shifted away from her current foster parent to a specialised foster care arrangement. The manner in which this shift was carried out is a matter of concern.”
The Ministry of External Affairs and the Embassy of India in Berlin have been persistently advocating for the return of Ariha Shah to India.
On Friday, Ariha’s mother Dhara Shah told PTI, “The MEA has released a very strong statement, asking German authorities to send Ariha back to India at the earliest. This has given us a lot of hope that she will soon return.”