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India moves to cancel visa for family of toddler Sherin Mathews who was murdered in US

Sherin’s adoptive parents, Wesley and Sini Mathews, are both in jail awaiting trial in the murder case.

india Updated: Sep 06, 2018 23:52 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
toddler Sherin Mathews,Sherin Mathews murder,India
Sherin Mathews was adopted by Wesley and Sini Mathews in 2016, was found dead near the family’s home in Richardson, Texas, on October 22, 2017, two weeks after her family reported her missing.(AP File Photo)

India has decided to cancel a visa in perpetuity for people of Indian origin of some relatives and friends of the Indian American couple awaiting trial in the US for the murder of Sherin Mathews, their three-year-old child adopted from Bihar.

The government has cited national security concerns as the reason and the impact of the case on relations with a foreign power, the United States, for this precipitate but seemingly unprecedented action.

Manoj N Abraham and Nissy T Abraham, an Indian American friends of the Mathews family, were among the first to receive a notice of cancellation of the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI), which they have challenged in Delhi high court.

Others on the cancellation list include Sherin’s adoptive parents, Wesley and Sini Mathews, who are both in jail awaiting trial, and the parents of Wesley, according to a note sent to the counsel for the ministry of external affairs by the consulate general of India in Houston, Texas, in response to the lawsuit.

“The decision to revoke the OCI cards of Manoj N Abraham and Missy T Abraham will be communicated to them at the earliest,” the note, a copy of which is in the possession of Hindustan Times, said. “They will also be informed that the Consulate will recommend that their names will be recommended for insertion in the ‘BlackList’ maintained by the Government of India at the earliest,” it added.

The note also makes clear that the action followed instructions from the government of India “to look into the matter.” Indian-origin foreigners can apply for regular India travel visas if they don’t have OCI cards, either because they never applied or had theirs revoked. But the “BlackList”, a more severe action, prevents them from being issued simple visas to travel to India, severing their links to their country of origin physically, and for good.

Sherin Mathews, who was named Saraswati by her birth parents in Bihar and was adopted by Wesley and Sini in 2016, was found dead near the family’s home in Richardson, Texas, on October 22, 2017, two weeks after her family reported her missing.

Wesley first told the police that his daughter had gone missing from outside the house where he had made her stand as punishment for not finishing her milk. She wasn’t there when he went back for her, he had contended. He changed his story subsequently and told investigators the child died in his arms after he tried to force-feed her — “physically assisted (her) … in drinking the milk.”

“The three-year-old girl began to choke. She was coughing and her breathing slowed. Eventually, Wesley Mathews no longer felt a pulse on the child and believed she had died,” the police had said in their report.

But instead of calling for medical help or police, Wesley is alleged to have put the child in the back of the family’s SUV along with a trash bag, drove a mile to a nearby culvert and left the body there. The family called the police four hours later, and the couple failed to explain the delay.

Wesley is charged with murder and his wife Sini, who had exhibited stunning insensitivity during questioning asking investigators if she will be free from questioning at the end of the day to attend a baby shower party for a friend, for accessory to the crime.

The case drew international attention at the time and India sought the utmost attention on the case given the heart-rending details of a three-year-old killed allegedly by her adoptive father as her mother slept in another room and did not seem concerned enough when told of it.

The Indian consulate in Houston conducted its own inquiries, not to be confused for or with those carried out by local law enforcement authorities, and as one official pointed out in a background discussion, “something had to be done, this couldn’t go unpunished.”

“It has come to the knowledge of the Consulate through diplomatic and privileged sources that Manoj Abraham and Nissy T Abraham have been in close contact with the adoptive parents of Sherin Mathews before, during and after the murder,” the consulate note said explaining the unique action.

But during an interview at the consulate, “Abraham … did not cooperate in providing information which could have helped the Consulate General of India or the Government of India to find out more about the circumstances of the murder”, according to the note.

First Published: Sep 06, 2018 14:29 IST