Bangalore/Mysore: Two brothers, with a tragic past that left them orphaned. They barely remember their how they lost their parents. But today, they dream of a home in Italy. The elder, eight-year-old, hopes to become an engineer, while the younger, six-year-old, dreams of becoming a doctor. But what the future holds, no one knows. The young brothers are at the centre of an inter-country adoption battle. Placed in a children's home in Mysore soon after they were orphaned, the brothers were then shifted to a private organisation in Bangalore that facilitates adoption in 2012.
When CNN-IBN visited Vathsalya Charitable Trust in Bangalore where the brothers are currently placed, they were having classes along with other children. As the team entered their office, the sounds of children ranting alphabets and science facts could be heard from the basement where classes are held.
"As in every process, first choice is to find parents within the country and if by chance we don't find parents within the country, the next step is to find Indians anywhere in the world and if that doesn't work out, then foreigners. So this is the same process we followed with even these two siblings who came to us," Mary Paul, Director of Vathsalya Charitable Trust told CNN-IBN.
When a couple in Italy came forward to adopt the boys, the brothers began to dream of a permanent home and a family to call their own. But that's when the trouble began. Their maternal aunt is against their adoption by a foreigner. The aunt who lives in Mysore had placed the boys in government's care in Mysore itself soon after their parents' death as she couldn't afford to take care of them.
When CNN-IBN visited Neelamma in Mysore, we met a distraught woman who couldn't stop sobbing as she looked at her nephews' pictures. Sitting outside her one-room house made of tin sheets, Neelamma said she was not informed about the adoption of her nephews. "I got to know that they had been shifted to Bangalore only when I wanted to visit them recently," said Neelamma, a group D employee. But surprisingly, the aunt and her husband do not seem too keen to have them back with her at home. She wants them at a government boys' home back in Mysore. "We want them in a government home in Mysore where they can visit us during holidays and festival," said Neelamma.
The young brothers, though, seem to have made a choice and it is not Mysore. The boys had been chatty and playful all this while. But when asked about going back to their aunt, they grew quiet. "No. I don't like to go to Mysore. I don't want to go to Chikkamma and Chikkappa," said the elder brother. The younger one, meanwhile, only looks at his brother.
Neelamma does not buy this opinion though. "They're being made to say all this," she said.
According to the Child Welfare Committee in Mysore, all papers were in place before the boys were cleared for adoption and sent to Bangalore. "We had put up ads in newspaper, TV and on radio but nobody came forward. We cannot keep them for long. We either have to reinstate them to their family or go for adoption," Srinivas Raje Urs, a member of the CWC in Mysore told CNN-IBN. The CWC maintains that the children were declared legally free for adoption only when no one came to claim the children. "According to Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, they are not guardians. Only paternal side can become guardian. Otherwise, the court has to declare who the guard is. No procedure has been done," explained Raje Urs.
The custody row raises larger questions on international adoptions and taking into account the best interest of the children involved. The Italian adoption now has been put on hold after a case was filed at a Bangalore court.
At the centre of this bitter legal battle are two young boys, who have almost become mute spectators. "Whatever happens, it's only in the child's best interest. If it is in their best interest to go with relatives, we are all for it. If it is in their best interest to go to the adopted parents, we're all for it but certainly it is not their best interest to stay in a government home," said Mary Paul.
The brothers, meanwhile, are busy with their classes at Vathsalya. Ever since their adoption was finalised, they were being prepared to go to the family in Italy. A foster family was found in Bangalore so that the boys could get used to living in a family. "Italy...my parents are there," said the elder one. As the brothers look to an uncertain future, all they long for is a home and love, and a future that holds promise.