Almost 10 days after Priyadarshini Patil, the 40-year-old hapless mother, fighting a legal battle with the Australian authorities for the custody of her two children ended her life by committing suicide, officials in Sydney have reportedly said that they are reviewing the case now, and assessing whether custody can be returned to the children’s father or grandparents.
Priyadarshini Patil an NRI based in Australia died by suicide on August 20 in Karnataka’s Belgavi district amid a prolonged custody battle for her children in Australia. The lady had been fighting a legal battle with the Australian authorities for the last three years. However, she ended her life on the fateful day on August 20 after she allegedly learned that an online hearing for the custody battle of her two children was postponed to November.
Priyadarshini alleged in her suicide note that her family had been harassed by Australian officials and locals in a Sydney neighbourhood. The letter detailed the distressing circumstances that led her to take this step as well as her family’s legal dispute over the custody of her children.
According to media reports, the recovered suicide note had Patil accusing the New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice and a section of her neighbours of messing up her life.
After her engineering studies, Priyadarshini married Lingaraj Patil who hailed from Kalyan Nagar in Dharwad. They were settled in Sydney. The couple had two children: a son Amartya Patil and a daughter Aparajita, both Australian citizens owing to their birth there.
According to reports, Patil’s eldest kid, Amartya, has been suffering from ulcerative colitis, an immunological illness that causes chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Over time, his illness got worse, necessitating his hospitalization.
It had been six months and the health condition of her son did not improve. Patil accused the doctors of not providing adequate care and lodged a legal complaint against them.
The doctors responded by accusing Patil of providing the kids with inadequate care at home, which they claimed was the cause of the illness, in a complaint to child welfare.
Three years ago, both kids were placed in the Department of Communities and Justice’s custody. The New South Wales officials accused Patil and her husband of “improper care” and separated the children.
The Patils subsequently launched a campaign to get their kids back. Priyadarshini Patil started an internet petition accusing the children’s public hospital of “corruption” and “forcibly” detaining her son. On July 28, 2023, the Patils contacted the Indian Consulate in Sydney after losing custody of both children.
Priyadarshini Patil’s family claimed that she returned to India earlier this month “deeply disturbed and losing all hope of getting her children back.” Her body was found in the backwaters of the Malaprabha river in Belagavi district on August 20.
In an interview with NDTV, child rights attorney Suranya Aiyar emphasized the need for an international system that recognizes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in cases involving children who are either Indian citizens or whose parents are recent immigrants in a foreign country. Aiyar is leading the campaign in India to ensure that the children are returned.
“So far as I am aware, no concrete steps have been taken. The request for the children to be returned to India is quite old… it was made several months before this tragic suicide but there has been no response…” Ms Aiyar said.
“What we are seeing, again and again in these cases, is that the system is not able to respond to the plight of families, and particularly children, who are either Indian citizens or are new arrivals in a foreign country. And once they are taken away from the parents or, as in this case, once the parental rights have been severely constrained, there have nowhere to go… and the children are, essentially, held hostage by foreign child services authorities.”
Aiyar underlined the fact that “India is conscious of the existence of crimes against the child” and that the government is a signatory to the UN’s convention on child rights.
“If you can have an international system for the exchange of prisoners based on country of origin… and a system where even someone accused of the worst crimes will have consular access… there is no reason why such children can’t be returned to India when a foreign government assesses parents to be incapable (of caring for the children) in any way.”
The woman’s sombre tale serves as a reminder of the ongoing Ariha Shah case in Germany, where parents are fighting authorities to get their two-year-old child back from foster care, as well as numerous other similar tales of persecution that have emerged over time as a pattern where Indians and newcomers of Indian origin to rich G-20 countries are persecuted by their child services due to cultural differences.