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Seeking estranged father in faraway Austria

Deserted in Kerala, abandoned siblings refuse to go back to mother. A report by Ramesh Babu.
Hindustan Times | By Ramesh Babu, Thiruvananthapuram
UPDATED ON APR 06, 2008 02:37 AM IST

They were locked in a dingy room without food for days together. Help came when one of the three Austrian siblings mustered enough courage to send a mail to the Austrian Embassy in Delhi narrating their plight in an alien country. It took two days for the Kerala Police to locate and rescue the children, David (15), Sultan (13) and Jasmin (10), abandoned by their Austrian mother in the central Kerala town of Kottayam.

After they were produced before the Kottayam chief judicial magistrate on Friday, mother Judith Ravichandran appeared dramatically before the court to claim their custody. But all three siblings told the court they didn’t want to go with her. They said their mother ill-treated them and deprived them of food. The judge tried to convince the little ones but they stood their ground.

After hearing them, the court sent the boys to the juvenile home and the girl to St Joseph’s Children's Home in the city. Tears welled up in the eyes of those present in the courtroom when the little girl was separated from her brothers. Since the juvenile home has no facility to accommodate girl children, the social welfare board official pleaded helplessness. Juvenile homes usually accommodate minors with petty criminal backgrounds so the authorities are planning to shift the innocent ones to a safer place in a couple of days.

“Judith works temporarily as a teacher in a charitable school in the district. She used to visit the kids occasionally,” Etumanoor station house officer MK Manoj said. However, the police did not register a case against the mother. “Travel papers of the mother and children are OK. On an extended visit visa they can stay here till May 30,” the police officer said.

Now the court has asked the social welfare department to get in touch with the embassy and find a way to send them back safely. “The girl was with me for a day. Since the law does not permit it, she was sent to an orphanage later. The kids are desperate to get back to their country. They say their estranged father treats them better than the mother,” district social welfare officer J Sridevi told Hindustan Times.

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