New Delhi: Fourteen-month-old Arya, whose parents were arrested last week for taking part in a protest against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), has developed sleep withdrawal, disturbance in sleeping pattern and appetite loss, according to reports. She is suffering from acute insecurity attack, according to a child psychologist, as a result of which she is exhibiting erratic behaviour. Her behaviour has been affected to such an extent that she does not even go close to those with whom she is familiar, said her grandmother.
The toddler’s parents, Ravi Shankar (36), who runs an NGO, and activist Ekta (32), were taken into custody by the Uttar Pradesh Police on December 19 while participating in the agitation at Beniya Bagh area in Varanasi, represented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Lok Sabha. Thousands of protestors had gathered there to register their dissent against the contentious legislation, defying Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) imposed by the police.
The couple is facing serious charges and was denied bail by a local court on December 23. The Sessions Court will hear their bail plea on January 1.
“She is unable to sleep properly since her parents were arrested. As we try to make her sleep, she searches for her mother who would breastfeed her. When she sleeps after a lot of efforts, she wakes up crying at intervals and begins looking for Ekta. We try to console her saying that her parents have gone out for work and will come back soon, but these tricks and false words are no more working,” the toddler’s grandmother, 68-year-old Sheila Tiwari told NewsClick.
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The child is not eating properly because of the trauma of not finding her father and mother around, she said, adding, “When we give her false hope, she eats a little. She has lost weight in the past one week.”
Debadrita said that they keep her occupied by showing her different things on a mobile phone. “Sometimes, her eyes turn red as we try to keep her glued to cell phone,” she said.
“Though Arya is very close to me, but a mother cannot be replaced. She is so young. She has just completed one and a half years. It’s very natural that she will look for her mother and father,” Arya’s aunt Debadrita said.
“We offer her milk, biscuits and play with her. We also take her out in the evening so that she can play with other children. We understand what a child, who has been living without her mother for so many days, has been going through,” she added.
Meanwhile, doctors are of the opinion that if the separation gets longer, the trauma will remain in her unconscious mind for a long time, which may result in some kind of mental ailment in the long run.
“At present, she is suffering from acute emotional trauma because she is extremely attached with her parents, and they are her support system. She has biological relations with her mother who breastfeeds her. Since both of them are not with her, she has been in extreme emotional distortion. She is in broken stage. Others such as her grandmother, aunts or any other family member might be her support system for a brief period, but she will find real solace in her parents only,” said a child psychologist.
The police had booked 56 identified and 200 unidentified people people for protesting in Beniya Bagh and nearby areas in violation of prohibitory orders. Majority of those who were arrested include leaders belonging to Left groups.
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The contentious CAA seeks to give Indian citizenship to non-Muslim refugees who entered the country till December 31, 2014, to escape religious persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Protests erupted across the country after both houses of Parliament passed the Bill, which later became an Act after President’s assent. Critics allege the new law is discriminatory and unconstitutional as it is based on religion.
Official figures suggest 19 deaths, while unofficial numbers show the toll at 21, across Uttar Pradesh as a result of violent protests and police excesses. According to the UP Police, 1,113 people have been arrested and 5,558 have been kept in preventive detention in the state as on December 26, following violence related to the anti-CAA protests.