WASHINGTON, D.C. –The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a bipartisan congressional caucus, recently heard the emotional testimonies of Indian American parents on the five-year anniversary of the ‘Sean and David Goldman Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act’, a legislation enacted by Congress and signed by President Obama in 2014. The Act was designed to address the problem of international parental child abduction.
However, five years after the law’s enactment, the Commission, victimized parents and children’s rights activists observed, the enforcement is woefully weak, especially when it comes to the return of abducted American children who are illegally retained in countries like India, Japan, Brazil and other Nations around the world.
At the congressional hearing on July 25, Indian American mother Ruchika Abbi alleged in her testimony: “My daughter Roshni, was abducted to India by her father from Virginia, when she was 6-years-old. Roshini is almost 12 now. My unfortunate little girl has been led to believe by her father that her mother abandoned her and broke the family.”
Abbi stated in her heart-wrenching testimony, “After 3 more years of fighting [for her daughter’s return] since then, of fearing, begging, and giving in, 3 more years of alienation, heartbreak and disappointment, I concede that hope deferred is now hope lost for me. While I will never give up on my daughter, Roshni, I have lost all hope that during these critical formative years of her life, I can ever be a mother to her, to shape her world view, to influence her thinking or support her development. Thanks to the inaction of the governments of two powerful nations, so-called allies, USA and India, I was unsuccessful in returning my daughter to her home in USA even though I legally had physical custody of her in India.”
Ravi Parmar, a father from New Jersey whose son Reyansh was allegedly abducted by his mother in 2012, stated in his written testimony to the commission, “My son, Reyansh, along with dozens of other American children, remain hostages in India, while the taking parents receive safe haven in a country [India] that refuses to act on international parental kidnapping, nor live up to its binding obligations to uphold UN Convention on Rights of Children or the rule of law.”
Vikram Jagtiani, whose daughter Nikhita was allegedly abducted from New York to India by her mother, said at the hearing, “These cases are occurring routinely, many go unreported, and the systemic response in both countries, U.S and India, is abysmal! At every step of the way, left behind parents struggle to receive timely assistance or cooperation. Cases linger on for years, mainly due to the excruciating delays in Indian courts, and then, abducting parents, more often than not, are granted ‘custody’ of children they abducted, in violation of U.S. laws and custodial rights of the parents left behind in the United States (and elsewhere)”
The Department of State in its 2019 Annual Report has cited India since 2014 and delivered five demarches, along with return requests for abducted American children wrongfully retained in India.
According to Parmar, co-founder of Bring Our Kids Home, a New Jersey-based non-profit that works for the return of abducted American children from India, there are no known cases of children being returned as a result of India’s actions. “It’s not just the two governments that have failed us,” he told India-West, “Even Indian American groups and leaders have been largely silent on this issue. We have reached out to multiple organizations and leading Indian American individuals, but most avoid engaging with us or even speak on this issue.”