The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Custody row over baby girl found in temple

Yet another girl child has been found abandoned on the city’s southern fringes. Barely a week ago, a one-day-old girl was spotted at the busy Garia railway station. A schoolteacher expressed her desire to take the baby home, but the police stopped her, saying that the custody issue had to be settled in a court of law.

This time, the discovery of an infant girl early on Friday at an old temple at Rajpur, in the Sonarpur area, also on the southern fringes, has triggered a tussle between the temple authorities and a few childless couples seeking custody of the child.

While the temple authorities refused to hand over the baby to the “outsiders”, saying it was not legally possible, the couples insisted that in their care, the “newborn would survive”.

“We cannot hand over the infant, since the matter has to be settled in a court of law,” maintained Shyamali Das, whose ancestors built the temple. “The child may, instead, be reared in our ashram,” she added.

Neighbour Sipra Sen, however, refused to buy the argument. “I am childless and willing to take custody of the infant for her well-being,” she insisted.

Several other childless women echoed the view and demanded that the girl be handed over to them. At this, Bijoy Krishna Brahma, chief priest of the temple for several years, stepped in to assert that the baby was “our property”, as she was found on the temple premises.

The infant, wrapped in a bundle of cloth, was first spotted on the stairs of the temple by Brahma, who had gone there to offer morning prayers. “I was surprised to see the little bundle. When I drew closer, I heard her wailing,” he recounted. As news of the baby spread, a crowd thronged the temple.

Officials from Sonarpur police station did not know who to pay heed to and where to keep the wailing baby. At one point, they had a tough time controlling the mob.

“The child cannot be handed over to anybody until the court decides her fate on Monday,” warned Amit Roy Chowdhury, inspector-in-charge of the thana. He asked the temple authorities to keep the baby until the court decides on its adoption. “We will move the court on Monday,” he added.

A local doctor examined the infant and prescribed some medicines. “She is doing perfectly well under the care of the temple authorities and should not be disturbed,” he maintained.

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