India asks US to address parents’ concerns in custody case

New York: Indian authorities have requested the US State Department to address the concerns of an Indian couple, who have been given limited access to their one-year- old son after he underwent surgery for brain injury and are facing criminal probe for failing to take proper care of him.

The Consulate General of India here has taken up with the US authorities the case of the child, Indrashish Saha, son of Kolkata natives Debashish Saha and Pamela Saha.

The boy is currently in Children’s Specialized Hospital, New Brunswick in New Jersey, and is being treated for injuries he sustained after he apparently fell from his bed at home last month.

Morris Country Prosecutors Office is also conducting a “criminal investigation” against the Sahas on how their son sustained the injuries.

According to a complaint filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, the court has determined that that the “removal of the child is necessary to avoid an ongoing risk to the life, safety or health of the child.”

Indrashish is currently under the custody of child welfare services and the Sahas have been allowed to visit him only once a week under the supervision of the division or a division approved supervisor.

Saha conveyed to the Consulate General his concerns as well as those of his family “that the child has not yet been handed over to them,” a Consulate statement said.

“The Consulate General has requested the US Department of State (Office of Foreign Missions) in New York to have the concerns of the parents addressed. The embassy of India in Washington has also taken up the matter with the US Department of State,” it added.

Saha’s wife had told the doctors that her son fell off the bed while playing and his head hit the floor, after which he became unconscious. However, the doctors treating Indrashish as well as the welfare agency say that the little boy could not have sustained such serious injuries just by falling off a bed.

His medical condition indicates that he is suffering from “Shaken Baby Syndrome” and his injury is “a high energy injury,” the doctors have said.

“Various doctors stated that the injuries Indrashish sustained were not consistent with the explanation that Debashish and Pamela Saha gave but were consistent with Shaken Baby Syndrome,” the complaint said.

“The child was abused/neglected in that his physical, mental or emotional condition has been impaired or is in imminent danger of becoming impaired as the result of the failure of his parents to exercise a minimum degree of care and in supplying the child with adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, medical or surgical care though financially able to do so or in providing the child with proper supervision or guardianship by unreasonably inflicting or allowing to be inflicted harm…,” the complaint said.

Saha has denied that he or his wife neglected their child and is seeking support from the Indian government to send Indrashish back to India.

The Sahas made their initial appearance in court on September 7 without a lawyer and the judge has set a date of September 14 when they would have to “show cause why an order should not be entered continuing the child under the care and supervision of the division and in the legal and physical custody of the division.”

Saha, who last saw his son on September 6, said he wants to send the child back to India where he has relatives who can take care of him. He said he does not have relatives in US and does not want custody of his child to go to foster parents.

He is also looking for a lawyer to fight the case and said he has been in touch with the Consulate for help.

The child protection division said it has “concerns as to how Indrasish sustained his injuries” and so he should be kept in custody of the court to “safeguard” his health and life.” Sndrashish’s father Debashish Saha, 28, feels his child is being “punished” and denies allegations that he and his wife Pamela, 25, were negligent in taking care of their baby.

A court has ruled that the Sahas not be granted custody of their child and they can see their son only once a week.

Saha’s request to meet his son briefly on the weekends was also denied. The couple have also been ordered to identify any relative in US who can take care of Indrashish, or else his custody will go to foster parents.

Saha, who came to the US about a month ago on a work visa, said he has conveyed to the Indian Consulate his request to send his son back to India. Living with foster parents will not be easy for Indrashish as it will be a different culture and upbringing for him, he said.

“My son is medically fit, he should not be punished because of the legal processes and requirements of the family welfare agency. He is an Indian citizen, he should be allowed to go back to India,” he told PTI.

He strongly denies allegations by the child protection division that he neglected his child saying as Indian parents, he and his wife have brought up their son with great care.

“In Indian culture, we bring up our children with great care. We have done everything that a good parent is required to do. I came to the US for my child’s good future.

I am not going to leave this country without my child,” he said.

Saha said he is not comfortable with his son being left in the care of foster parents but added he cannot go against the court’s orders. “Since I do not have relatives here, they are taking advantage. If the court does not give us our son, then my request is to send him back to India where my relatives can take better care of my child than foster parents here.”

He said the agency can carry out background checks on his parents in India and his relatives to confirm whether they are capable of taking care of Indrashish.

Seeking support from Indian government, Saha said he is faced with complex legal issues and will need the support of the Indian government to fight the legal battle. “Without the government’s help, I cannot fight this battle alone.”

On doctors’ assertion that Indrashish’s injuries are due to the ‘Shaken Baby Syndrome’, he said it is “impossible” that he or his wife ill-treated their son, adding the Shaken Baby Syndrome is a “controversial topic” which is interpreted in different ways by doctors.

“We have told the doctors and the agency the truth…

There is no way my wife could have done something like this (to harm the baby) but they are not believing me,” he added.

Saha said he calls up hospital to inquire about his son’s health and is also worried about whether he is getting proper care and food. At one time, a nurse told him the boy had been crying for two hours and will stop crying once he gets tired.

“This is not the way we take care of our children.” -PTI