Death of a baby: why Ahuti's case shouldn't be brushed aside

Three-month-old baby Ahuti Joshi was brought into KEM hospital with multiple skull fractures, fractures in her ribs and internal bleeding. The police were informed by the doctors about the case. Like most cases it was transferred to the appropriate police station, and like most cases, it joined a long list of those 'under investigation'.

On 1 October, Ahuti died. Despite the injuries being recorded, and the doctors giving statements indicating that they were unlikely to have been sustained naturally, no course of action was taken.

Doctors spoke about how the parents of the child were evasive and unable to explain Ahuti's injuries.

Representational image. Reuters

“They have been non-cooperative and have no proper explanation for the child’s injuries. We are trying to evaluate them for any psychological problems or any social problems such as reservations about having a girl child,” Dr Shubhangi Parkar, academic dean and head of pyschiatry department, KEM Hospital was quoted as saying in an Indian Express report.

It then emerged that Ahuti had a twin, who had been brought dead to the hospital within 12 days of being born, some reports alleged under suspicious circumstances.

The police, however, after recording the parents' statements, offered their own medical opinion.

“The first child had died due to (complications from) a premature delivery and we had registered a case of an accidental death. The second baby, too, was not in good health and was admitted to KEM Hospital a few days ago. We were informed by hospital authorities of her death. The police then went to the hospital and recorded the statements of the parents. We do not suspect any foul play in the case,” Bhagwan Chate, senior inspector of the Borivli police station, was quoted as saying in a DNA report.

Her parents have pleaded innocence, saying that they would never have hurt the children and didn't know the causes of the injury.

"We are an educated and cultured family and wouldn't even think of hurting a child. I was a priest before I started my business. We don't have the dowry custom in our community; so, why wouldn't I want a girl child?" the baby's father Kalpesh Joshi was quoted as saying in a Times of India report.

Joshi, who is involved in the garment trade,  also has a two-year-old daughter, and the family left soon after the death of Ahuti for their hometown in Gujarat.

As pressure steadily mounted, the police finally jumped into action and registered an FIR in the matter today. They chose not to name the parents in the FIR, CNN-IBN reported.

However, what is questionable is why the police needed media pressure for the case to be registered. Under existing law the police could have registered a case based on the doctor's statements, and could have investigated the matter. If the parents were found to be innocent, the case wouldn't need to have been pursued further, and could have been dropped before trial. The reluctance to register a case, despite the horrific implications of the child's injuries, is nothing short of absolute callousness, not to mention a terrible example of police inaction.

While the parents of Ahuti must be presumed innocent until proven guilty in this case, the unfortunate truth is that incidents of baby battering, while largely unacknowledged, has been recorded in multiple cases in recent times. The cases of baby Falak, baby Afreen and baby Shireen received wide exposure in the media, but such abuse is not as rare as one would hope.

Firstpost had earlier reported how girls under the age of five years in India were dying at an abnormally high rate, because of  being subjected to domestic violence in their homes. We had also noted how, in addition to educating doctors and police about its prevalence, what was needed was firm action in cases where it was found.

It would be more convenient to believe that Ahuti's case was one of natural death, especially for our sensibilities, but more horrific possibilities cannot be ruled out yet. Brushing it aside, despite evidence, augurs badly for similar cases that may be seen in the city and country in the future.

Updated Date: Oct 04, 2012 15:16 PM

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