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15-month-old child awaits return of parents lodged in Varanasi jail

Champak, with aunt Debadrita Tiwari, at a prayer meeting in Varanasi on Saturday .   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

It’s difficult to sit for long in the drawing room of retired irrigation department official Krishna Kumar Tiwari in Adarsh Nagar colony of Mehmurganj locality in Varanasi.

A stream of visitors has been pouring in ever since his younger son Ravi Shekhar and his wife Ekta were arrested and sent to jail for participating in a peaceful protest march against Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Register of Citizens on December 19 at Beniabagh area in the city. The couple’s 15-month-old child, Champak, has lost weight in the last 10 days.

“We still don’t understand why we are being made to suffer like this. Is it a crime under the present regime to participate in a peaceful protest march?” asks Subhangi Tiwari, a cousin of Mr. Shekhar. Ms. Subhangi is pursuing her Ph.D in medical sociology from Banaras Hindu University. “Both on emotional and physical level we’re drained now. For the last 10 days we have been repeating the same thing to visiting journalists and other people,” she adds.

Ms. Subhangi, Mr. Shekhar’s mother Sheela Tiwari and his sister-in-law Debadrita Tiwari have been the biggest support for Champak in the absence of her parents. “We take turns to be with her,” they say.

Trauma for family

Elder brother Sashikant Tiwari, who runs an English speaking coaching institute in Varanasi, is busy pursuing legal proceedings to get Mr. Shekhar and his wife released from jail. “It’s been traumatic for the family, especially for Champak,” he says. “Ekta wants to see her baby but we don’t take her as we only have half an hour time to meet them in jail. It will be more painful for them,” he says.

On Saturday afternoon, Champak joined her family members, social activists and local schoolchildren at a prayer meeting with a placard “Mummy-papa kab aayenge? (When will mummy-papa come?)”. On Monday, she and her grandmother will visit Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s local office in Ravindrapuri to request him to release her parents, says Mr. Sashikant. Mr. Modi has won parliamentary election twice from Varanasi.

Septuagenarian Mr. Krishna Kumar says, “In our whole life we have never been to police station or court. This is very painful and disheartening. It seems we have ceased to be citizens of this country.”

Ms. Sheela, who has been fasting at night ever since her son and daughter-in-law were sent to jail, says she’s running out of patience and grit. “Once they are released I will ask Ekta not to participate in such protests at least for four-five years, for her child’s sake. Champak is too young to bear separation from her parents,” she says. Both Mr. Shekhar and Ms. Ekta are activists espousing the cause of environment and climate change. They have organised over 200 campaigns in different parts of U.P. this year alone.

“In the last 10 days there have been behavioural changes in Champak. Her sleep pattern has changed and she gets more anxious at night when her mother used to breastfeed her,” says Ms. Debadrita. “For the last two days she just stares whenever someone calls out the names of her parents,” she adds.

Psychotherapist B.N. Pathak says in such situations, a child may suffer anxiety, acute emotional trauma, sleep withdrawal, behavioural irritation and emotional insecurity. And if the separation lasts longer, it may have a lasting impact such as aloofness, societal disorientation or she could even become asocial. “It’s good that in a joint family Champak is in a bit of a comfort zone,” he adds.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 7:59:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/15-month-old-child-awaits-return-of-parents-lodged-in-varanasi-jail/article30422926.ece

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