On 30 October 2019, Kyrmen Shylla, social welfare minister of Meghalaya, received a call early in the morning from his sister. She informed him about an infant found abandoned in the compound of their house, in Nongrim Hills, Shillong.
Shylla rushed home from his quarters and saw the child, neatly wrapped in a blanket. He immediately took the baby into his arms.
‘‘The way the baby was kept indicates that the intention of the person who left the child was to ensure that the baby does not get hurt and is in safe hands.’’Kyrmen Shylla, Social Welfare Minister of Meghalaya
Shylla called the police and while they followed the standard protocols, he also rang DCPO Kong Matti from the social welfare department. After seeking permission from the police and Kong Matti, he got the baby checked at a nearby hospital where he found that the baby is approximately a week-old girl.
He knew that he cannot keep the child, therefore he informed the State Adoption Resource Agency. Since then, the baby is at the adoption agency in Shillong and Shylla’s family is in the process of bringing her home.
‘‘My mother said ‘Whatever you do, make sure that this child belongs to our family, she should come to us.’ She didn’t even want me to inform the adoption agency but I know my duty as a citizen and I want to be her father legally.’’Kyrmen Shylla, Social Welfare Minister, Meghalaya
‘Adoption Law Stopping Us From Bringing Her Home’
Shylla knew that there were procedures to be followed for adoption but he didn’t expect the adoption process to take this long.
Him being a single man, the law doesn’t allow him to adopt a girl child.
‘‘I thought the process will be very easy but after going through the procedures as per the adoption act, I found it very tough and difficult. Law speaks for every citizen equally and makes no exception for a minister in power. But I keep giving hope to my mom and even my grandmother that the child will belong to us one day.’’Kyrmen Shylla, Social Welfare Minister, Meghalaya
After a discussion within his family, they decided that one of Shylla’s 14 siblings, his sister, will adopt the child in her name and has enrolled herself in the procedure.
But that hasn’t made things easy for them.
Shylla has written a letter to Union Minister Smriti Irani, asking her for her help and intervention in this matter. They have been told that the matter is being looked into and the delay is due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
‘‘One day, she will be my daughter, officially, through the adoption act. I am happy to say that I will be her father, or maybe a brother, if she would like to call me that.’’Kyrmen Shylla, Social Welfare Minister, Meghalaya
They Call Her ‘Wanhi’
Shylla’s family belong to the Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya. ‘Wanhi’ is a Khasi word that translates to ‘The one who comes to the family on her own.’ Shylla and his family see the child as a blessing.
“I guarantee that we will give her equal love, equal everything because she is part of our family, (but only) if we can adopt this child. And I believe that even the parents who left her in our compound did it with the hope that this family will take care of our child.”Kyrmen Shylla, Social Welfare Minister, Meghalaya
Shylla is looking after Wanhi while she is under the care of Lawei Baphyrnai Specialised Adoption Agency in Shillong.
Shylla and his family members also celebrated her first birthday at the agency.
But he is not able to visit her often as he fears being a carrier of COVID-19. Shylla, owing to his job, is required to travel frequently within the state.
According to the law, any person who has the information of the infant can contact the agency and claim the infant within 60 days, failing which the infant will be declared legally free for adoption.
It’s been over a year and yet, Shylla and his family have not been able to adopt the child.
‘‘The child will be safe with us. And I believe that with your prayers one day, this child will come to our family so that we can live together happily. So, please do pray for us.’’Kyrmen Shylla, Social Welfare Minister, Meghalaya