Indira Gandhi’s 2021 journey to reunite with stolen daughter

Yiswaree Palansamy
·4-min read
M. Indira Gandhi speaks at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur October 9, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
M. Indira Gandhi speaks at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur October 9, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 ― M. Indira Gandhi’s resolution for 2021 remains the same as the one she made 11 years ago when she was forcefully separated from her youngest child Prasana Diksa.

To see and hold her little girl once more.

“It's getting very frustrating because we are waiting for an end to this and that a solution will come, but nothing is happening.

“I waited for more than 11 years. Prasana is already 12, but still, I can't even see her. I am not even allowed to see her. I feel very let down by the government,” she told Malay Mail when contacted.

The wheels of justice have been grinding exceedingly slow for this mother of three from Ipoh, Perak.

Indira saw justice as on her side when the Federal Court ordered the police in 2018 to find and return Prasana, stolen away by her ex-husband just before he converted to Islam in 2009.

The High Court had first issued an arrest warrant for the Muslim convert who now goes by Muhammad Riduan Abdullah in 2014.

But until last September, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador said the process to return Prasana and Muhammad Riduan was complicated and time consuming as both were no longer in Malaysia.

Abdul Hamid said police knew where the father and daughter were, but did not disclose the country, only saying negotiations for their extradition through a third-party were ongoing.

In August, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin claimed Muhammad Ridhuan was believed to be living abroad and regularly relocating to avoid detection.

That same month, Abdul Hamid also said that the police were looking for an amicable solution where both Indira and Muhammad Riduan will get the benefit of “some form of joint custody”.

This despite a High Court ruling in 2010 granting full custody of all three children from their marriage to Indira.

Unable to bear the misery of a longer wait, India filed a RM100 million lawsuit against the IGP and the police in November 2020, over their continued failure to execute the court order to reunite the mother and daughter.

Her voice cracking with emotion, Indira pointed out that the courts had sided with her and questioned why the IGP sought to negotiate with her fugitive ex-husband for joint custody of Prasana.

“I truly do not get all these statements by the authorities one bit. I am not asking for anything unjust, but what is rightfully mine. Why must so much consideration be given to a party who wronged me?

“This matter should also not be politicised by other parties. She is my daughter and I want her back. Why must this be spiralled into what it is today? When will I see Prasana ever? I am her mother. Her birth mother. I should not be begging this way,” Indira said.

Now 45, Indira has gained a number of accolades and recognition in her search for her daughter last seen at 11 months old.

The US Embassy here lauded Indira as one of its international women of courage in recognition of her legal challenge against the unilateral conversion of her three children, and her efforts to reunite with Prasana.

Muhammad Riduan, formerly known as K. Pathmanathan, embraced Islam in 2009 and converted all three of his children with Indira on April 2 the same year without her knowledge. They had been raised as Hindus.

After a protracted court battle that spanned years, the Federal Court ruled in January 2018 that the unilateral conversions of Indira’s children were unlawful.

Their two older children, Tevi Darsiny, now 22, and Karan Dinish, now 21, have stayed with Indira.

Keeping hope lit

Despite the setbacks, Indira has not given up hope of meeting her lost daughter.

She had initially planned to go on a hunger strike to compel a meeting with the IGP. It was later cancelled after he agreed to meet not just Indira but her supporters who have formed a solidarity group called the Indira Gandhi Action Team, or Ingat for short, last September.

Indira also planned to carry out a justice walk from Sungai Petani, Kedah to the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya, which has been put on hold due to the pandemic.

She told Malay Mail that her justice walk would resume in 2021 at a date to be announced later, though she hopes to do it by the end of January if the Covid-19 situation in the country improves by then.

“We will announce the date because it's the pandemic now, and the numbers are increasing. We don't want to take risks. Other than that, we have the plan set up.

“We want to do the justice walk at the end of January but we are still going to wait and see how the pandemic situation is by then,” she said.

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