A Chennai slum dweller’s fight for her Dutch son

Source: Times of India
Jaya Menon, TNN, May 28, 2010, 03.15am IST

CHENNAI: On June 15, when Nagarani Kathirvel leaves the squalor of a Chennai slum for the first time and appears in a court hall in Zwolle-Lelystad in the Netherlands, she would still be a long way from the end of her bitter, traumatic struggle. But it would be a beginning — to establish in a foreign court of law that she is the mother of a 12-year-old Dutch boy. About 10 years ago, Rohit Shivam Bissesar was Satheesh Kumar, a toddler living in the Pulianthope slums, that is, until he was kidnapped and given away in adoption to a Dutch couple. Earlier this month, a court in the town of Lelystad in the Netherlands summoned her to appear before it.

“Nagarani has been directed to appear before the court of Zwolle-Lelystad at 3.30pm on June 15. The proceedings will be held behind closed doors,” Maaike Junte, a spokesperson for the court, told TOI from the town of Zwolle. It is a victory of sorts for the 35-year-old woman but it has come after hard battles both in courts in Chennai and the European nation. Only a month ago, her plea for a DNA test to establish that Rohit was her son was rejected by a fast-track court there. Going along with views of the special curator appointed for Rohit, the fast-track court in Zwolle-Lelystad decided “it was not in the interest of the child to know its roots.”

Against Child Trafficking (ACT), a Netherlands-based organization fighting Nagarani’s case, reacted rather strongly. Said Roelie Post, director of ACT, “It is totally unacceptable that five years after the Indian authorities discovered that this child was kidnapped and allegedly sold for inter-country adoption to a family in the Netherlands, the Dutch ministry of justice has done little to sort this out. The ministry of justice seems to be hiding behind procedures and formalities and appears to have totally lost sight of the tragedy the Indian parents are living (through).”

But even as high drama is being played out in the Dutch courts, Nagarani’s case relating to her plea to be reunited with her son has been moving at snail’s pace in the Madras high court. Since September 2007, when it was entrusted with the case, the CBI has been grappling with what it claims is the “intransigent attitude” of foreign governments. The investigating agency has taken up three cases of abducted children (including that of Nagarani) given up for adoption abroad. “We sent letters rogatory (a formal communication to competent authorities for investigation in foreign countries) to the US, Australia and Netherlands about two years ago. We finally received a reply from the Netherlands. But the correspondence is in Dutch and we have not been able to proceed further,” said a CBI source.

The story of Nagarani goes a long way back to a balmy night in October 1999 when the family rolled out their mats on the hard mud road in the Pulianthope colony and decided to sleep under the stars.