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German court denies parents custody of Indian baby

Bhavesh Shah and Dhara Shah with their toddler Ariha. Ariha has now been separated from her parents since September 2021. Image Courtesy: @Ariha_Mother/Twitter

A court in Pankow in Berlin has denied custody of 27-month-old baby Ahira Shah to her parents. The little girl will be handed over to the German Youth Protection Office (Jugendamt) where she has been detained since September 2021.

Rejecting her parents’ claims that Ahira’s injuries were ‘accidental’, the court on Friday ordered the transfer of her custody to the German state, according to India today.

The court rejected Dhara and Bhavesh Shah’s request to return their child or at least hand her over to the Indian Welfare Service, the third party authorized to take part in the case.

The court justified its verdict by saying that its order is in “the best interests of the child who is at risk”.

Ariha’s parents have not lost hope, however, saying they have faith in the Indian government and have trusted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and EAM S Jaishankar to do their best to bring their baby back to them.

“As of today, we are handing over Ariha at 140 crore Bhartiyas,” they said in a statement released after the verdict was delivered.

Ariha was first sent into foster care in Germany in 2021 after her parents were accused of abusing her.

Earlier this month, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi wrote a letter urging the German authorities “to do whatever is necessary to send Ariha to India at the earliest, which is also his inalienable right as an Indian national”.

Meanwhile, 59 MPs from 19 political parties, including the BJP, Congress, Left and Trinamool Congress, have come together to support Baby Ariha’s case. They wrote a letter to the German Ambassador to India Philipp Ackermann to do everything possible to repatriate the child to India.

“We, members of both Houses of Parliament of India, belonging to 19 political parties from all political stripes, are writing to you this joint letter with an urgent request for the repatriation to India of Ariha Shah, a two-year-old baby girl, a citizen from India as are her parents Dhara and Bhavesh Shah. The family was in Berlin as the father of the baby was employed in a company there. The family should have been back in India by now but for some tragic events” , Indian lawmakers wrote.

“We do not slander any agency in your country and assume that whatever was done was considered to be in the best interests of the baby,” reads the letter from the Indian parliamentarians.

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