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NRI dads fight for ‘abducted’ children

New Delhi, Feb. 25: California-based engineer Yogish Kode has waited for over a year to see his “abducted” son, to feel the soft, tiny hand wrap itself around his forefinger and to sing Carnatic lullabies to him.

He knows exactly where his son — now four years old — is, and with whom. But he has little faith that police will act against the “abductor” — his wife who Kode claims left with their son on a vacation to India in late 2006 but never returned.

Aggrieved with laws that he says are tilted in favour of women, Kode has now approached India’s apex child rights panel for help — the first father to do so.

“The United Nations Convention of Child Rights makes it clear that a child has the right to meet both parents. That’s my hope… my only hope to see my son again,” he says, tears streaming down his face that bears a startling resemblance to actor Rahul Bose.

He has complained to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) that his wife is denying their son the right to meet his father.

Kode isn’t alone.

Hundreds of NRI fathers like Kode have formed a non-profit organisation in the US called the Rakshak Foundation to fight for the right to have a role in the upbringing of their children.

Their wives are accused in cases of parental abduction in the US but have refused to appear before courts there, even though some, like Kode’s son, are US citizens.

India does not recognise parental abduction as a crime, and is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, an international treaty that binds countries in their pledge against the offence.

Instead, Kode and others are now facing charges of dowry related abuse.

For Niren Sirohi, the shock came 16 years after marriage. He and his family were on a vacation to India in August 2007, when, two days before they were to return, his wife took their two children to her parents’ house.

“She was my college sweetheart. I courted her for five years before we married. Why would I ask for dowry? And did it take her 16 years of marriage to raise this?” asks the 38-year-old US-based financial services executive.

It’s a problem that government officials recognise and accept in private, but are wary of acting on — some concede they do not want to be seen as anti-women.

“Our only option, to even see the child, is to focus on his right to grow up with both parents,” Kode says.

Under India’s Guardian Act, a child is to be brought up in his “normal place of residence”.

Sirohi and Kode argue that the US is the normal place of residence for their children.

“That’s where my children were born and have lived for years. I am hoping that even under Indian law, the US will be accepted as the normal place of residence for them,” says Kode.

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