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As Indira Gandhi suffers, our humanity erodes

Some of us seem to lack humanity and compassion, as well as a crucial sense of justice

The Indira Gandhi case has set a precedent - THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER

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For the last 13 years, M Indira Gandhi has been clutching at hope, no matter how brittle it could be, to survive amid the ordeal of ‘losing’ her youngest daughter to ex-husband K Pathmanathan.

It is, therefore, no wonder that the successful reunion between single mother Loh Siew Hong and her three children recently gave renewed hope for Indira, who has not seen her daughter Prasana Diksa, then a 11-month-old baby, ever since she was abducted by her father.

One could imagine the sight of the Loh family’s happy reunion triggering a measure of deep sadness in Indira, who has been to hell and back in her relentless pursuit of her beloved daughter.

What is also disturbing for Indira is that Prasana has since been unilaterally converted to Islam by her father Muhammad Ridzuan Abdullah, the name he assumed upon becoming Muslim – a conversion that has become a bone of contention for the divorced couple as well as interested parties.

As most parents would acknowledge, a mother’s love for her children is in her bones and knows no bounds, which explains why Indira had tolerated the runaround given by the authorities even after the court had granted her full custody of Prasana.

To be sure, she had gone in and out of Ipoh High Court to gain full custody of Prasana as well as quash the unilateral conversion.

Apart from the police, she also had sought the help of Malaysia’s human rights commission, Suhakam, in her desperate search for answers to the plight she is in.

READ MORE:  Unilateral conversion: Can a state religious enactment override the Federal Constitution?

Suhakam reaffirmed the stand taken by the Federal Court, that the conversion of a minor must require the consent of both parents.

Indira has done almost everything and anything any doting mother would have done in order to reunite with Prasana, who by now is in her teens. In so doing, she must have also ridden an emotional roller coaster.

It must have been very agonising for the 46-year-old mother to have missed the crucial growing-up years of Prasana, including the babbling, the running around and the incessant curiosity, which form part of the joy a mother (and also father) cherishes.

The long suffering of the single mother and Prasana’s two siblings also largely reflects the kind of society we are. Some of us seem to lack humanity and compassion, as well as a crucial sense of justice.

For one thing, Indira’s prolonged agony suggests that some people in power, particularly women politicians and ministers, do not feel the grinding pain of a mother whose breastfed baby was snatched away from her.

Hence, for example, the absence of public expression of concern, let alone an offer of assistance, by Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rina Harun over this matter, sends a worrying signal. Surely, the minister should be attentive to the needs and concerns of vulnerable women and families, irrespective of their ethnic, religious and class backgrounds.

It also begs the question whether certain government agencies have lost their moral compass and have committed a dereliction of duty in Indira’s case.

Ridzuan and his ilk may want to be reminded that the Islam one embraces does not take kindly to people who knowingly sever the precious ties between mother and child – a most unkind cut.

READ MORE:  Unilateral conversion: Can a state religious enactment override the Federal Constitution?

Maternal love has its moral claim. – The Malaysian Insight

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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