Thu, 28 Sep 2023

New Delhi [India], June 3 (ANI): Reports defending action of German Youth Agency in the Ariaha Shah case are inaccurate and appear to be an attempt to obfuscate the issue, sources said on Saturday.

The baby was placed in the custody of Germany's Youth Welfare Office of the (Jugendamt) on September 23, 2021, when she was seven months old. She has now been in foster care for more than 20 months.

"Reports defending the action of 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," a source said.

"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 added.

Responding to media queries, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on Friday that the ministry and the Embassy of India, Berlin have been persistently advocating for the return of Ariha Shah to India"It is an important issue, a sensitive one. Our efforts have been guided by the best interests of the child, which we believe can be fully realized only when she is in her home country, where her socio-cultural rights can be safeguarded. Accordingly, we have been requesting Germany to return the child to India," he said.

The spokesperson said that India's embassy has been repeatedly requesting German authorities to ensure that Ariha's connection with "our cultural, religious and linguistic background is not compromised and has sought consular access to the child".

"Unfortunately, our requests in this regard for safeguarding Ariha's national and cultural identity have not been met. We are dismayed to learn that the child was abruptly shifted away from her current foster parent to a specialized foster care arrangement. The manner in which this shift was carried out is a matter of concern. We and the parents believe that this rapid change is not in the child's best interest and could have far-reaching consequences for her emotional and mental development," Bagchi said.

He said India has a robust child welfare and protection system and there are potential foster parents in India who are willing to bring up the child in her own socio-cultural milieu.

Bagchi said the German authorities have been made aware of India's child protection system and the details of potential foster parents have also been shared with them.

"Ariha's continued placement in German foster care and infringement of her social, cultural and linguistic rights is of deep concern to the Government of India and to the parents. 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. 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. (ANI)

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