'A battle he can't give up' - APP article on NJ 'Left Behind dad Smith is trying to help...'Manalapan dad fighting to get abducted son back from India'
BY APP WRITER JERRY CARINO - Reyansh Parmar’s favorite things are stacked in a corner of his bedroom. There’s his Finn McMissile pillow from the movie “Cars 2.” There’s a big red teddy bear. There is the plastic kitchenette he played with every day, cooking daddy invisible meals.
But Reyansh isn’t there anymore. He hasn’t been home in seven years, since his mother took him to India and refused to come back. He’s 10 now, and father Ravi Parmar has been fighting a lonely, desperate battle to reunite with his son.
“I would not wish it on anybody, including my son’s mother, who did this,” the 41-year-old said last week at his Manalapan home. “You feel helpless, but I can’t give up on my son. I have to keep fighting for him, because nobody else is.”
International child abduction remains an unchecked problem five years after the passage of the Sean and David Goldman Child Abduction Act. Named after the Monmouth County son and father who were reunited in 2009 after the child was taken to Brazil by his mother and kept there — staying with her family after she subsequently died — the law authorizes the U.S. State Department to sanction nations that harbor abducting parents.
India is one of those nations. U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who played a central role in reuniting the Goldmans, said there are seven documented cases involving New Jersey kids being abducted to India by a parent. But as Smith and others have lamented, the federal law is not being vigorously enforced.
So Ravi Parmar is fighting alone, even though he, ex-wife Dimple Parmar and young Reyansh are U.S. citizens. Even though a New Jersey court granted Ravi full custody and ordered the child to be returned home. Even though a family court in India just issued a scathing opinion of Dimple Parmar’s conduct, noting that she “deliberately abandoned the country of her citizenship and domicile, to come to India, against the laws of her country, which amounted to parental kidnapping, to avoid adverse orders against her.”
Ravi Parmar has seen Reyansh a handful of times on visits to India, but lately even those have ceased. There is a school bus stop right outside Ravi's home, and soon backpack-toting kids will be gathering there, a painful reminder that Reyansh should be among them.
“I haven’t seen him grow up,” Ravi said. “I’ve missed out on almost everything the last seven years.”
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Do the math
The scene at the airport replays over and over in Ravi Parmar’s mind. He dropped off Reyansh and Dimple in March 2012; they were heading to a month’s stay in India culminating in a relative’s wedding. As Ravi recalls it, the 3-year-old didn’t want to leave his dad and go through the security checkpoint.
“He kept running back and hugging me,” Ravi said. “I never thought that he wouldn’t be coming back.”
Ravi eventually flew to India for the wedding. Afterward, Dimple informed him that she wanted a divorce and would not be returning to the U.S. — and neither would Reyansh.
“We had some marital issues,” Ravi said. Still, he flew home figuring they would work out some sort of child custody arrangement.
It didn’t happen. Dimple obtained the divorce and full custody from an India court, alleging child abuse by Ravi. He contested the custody ruling, and it took seven years, but in April India’s Family Court No. 5 in Pune determined the abuse allegation to be unfounded. The Pune court’s 270-page opinion — which was obtained by the Asbury Park Press — sharply criticized Dimple but declined to enforce the U.S. court’s custody ruling in Ravi’s favor, citing jurisdictional conflicts.
It was deflating but offered a glimmer of hope. In 2015, Parmar said, the FBI recommended his case for prosecution by New Jersey's U.S. Attorney, who declined to follow up. Parmar believes the abuse allegation played a role in that decision and would like to see the new U.S. Attorney, Craig Carpenito, take a fresh look at prosecution in light of the Pune court’s opinion.
“If we don’t prosecute these cases, anybody who wants to abduct kids in the future can do the math and say, ‘Hey, they’re not going to do anything to me,’” Parmar said.
Chris Smith agrees, which is why invited Ravi to testify before a House of Representatives committee on the subject, and why the Congressman asked him to participate in a press conference last week commemorating the Goldman Act’s fifth anniversary. (See video from that atop this story).
“The law provides a framework so no parent has to become their own secretary of state, suddenly trying to negotiate a resolution between countries,” Patricia Apy, the Goldmans' attorney, said during the press conference. “This is something that’s going to require more than the individual resources of a parent.”
To that end, Parmar is hoping Phil Murphy raises the issue on the governor’s scheduled visit to India next month.
“I would ask him to bring this up at the highest levels,” Parmar said. “These are New Jersey children we’re talking about.”
'I haven’t given up on him'
In the meantime Parmar co-founded “Bring Our Kids Home,” a network of parents affected by international child abduction. He gets two or three calls per month from parents concerned that they could be in his shoes next.
His advice: “Reach out to the State Department and enroll their children in the Passport Issuance Alert Program. Before a passport is issued, the parent gets notified. Only if they approve will the child get the passport.”
In addition, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can enroll children on a no-fly list. But that takes more time and must be affirmed by a judge.
“I don’t want other families to go through this pain,” Parmar said.
His uncle, Lawrence resident Devidas Parmar, says Ravi is “always talking about his son” and sends boxes of toys over to India, only to have them returned or unacknowledged.
“He’ll come to my home and cry and talk about how he can’t see his son,” Devidas said. “It’s very hurting to all of us.”
If Reyansh ever does come home, Ravi said, he’ll do everything he can to ensure his mother remains in his life.
“No child should be deprived of one parent or the other,” he said.
Standing in Reyansh’s old bedroom, amid the teddy bears and the kitchenette, Ravi said he’s been calling his son twice a week but getting no response.
“I know he knows I’m there for him, because I keep calling,” Ravi said. “Whatever they’re telling him about me, I haven’t given up on him. That’s the best I can do right now.”
On the 5th Anniversary of its signing, David Goldman is joined by his son Sean as he holds a copy of the Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act during a news conference in Red Bank Thursday, August 8, 2019. (Thomas P. Costello)
For more information on "Bring Our Kids Home," visit www.bringourkidshome.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 973-878-1701.
Jerry Carino is news columnist for the Asbury Park Press, focusing on the Jersey Shore’s interesting people, inspiring stories and pressing issues.
This story was originally published on page one of the Aug. 19, 2019 edition of the Asbury Park Press and can be found online at: