Siminder Kaur talks about her child custody battle for her son, Anhad Singh. Nikki Boertman
The Memphis father arrested on federal abduction charges in an international child custody dispute agreed Monday to help return his 2½-year-old son from India, leaving his estranged wife hoping to see their child soon.
“I’m hoping my son will be back this week,” said the boy’s mother, Siminder Kaur, 33. But she said she’s not taking success for granted.
Vaneet Singh’s arrest Friday marked a dramatic turn of events in an intense custody fight stretching from India to Collierville. Singh faces charges of international parental kidnapping and conspiracy, according to court records.
FBI Special Agent Ryan E. Arton wrote in an affidavit that there is probable cause to believe Singh conspired with his parents to keep the toddler Anhad Singh in India and obstruct the parental rights of the mother.
The mother and father are legal permanent residents from India who live and work in the Memphis area. Their son was born in Germantown in 2014, making him a U.S. citizen. He’s been in India since late 2015.
Singh’s arrest came a day after the state Court of Appeals in Jackson, Tennessee dismissed the father’s appeal in a civil child custody case, Arton’s affidavit states.
Lawyers for the father had argued an Indian court should decide the case. An attorney for the father, Jack Irvine, said Singh doesn’t deserve criminal charges. “We don’t think there’s been a crime committed at all . . . The child is subject to what we believe is a lawful court order in India.”
At a Monday morning bail hearing, assistant U.S. Atty. Tony Arvin said the two sides had agreed to conditions for Singh’s release. Bond was set at $20,000, and $2,000 of that must be paid in cash. Singh will have to wear an ankle monitor and has already given up his only travel document, an Indian passport. “He further agrees that he will cooperate with authorities in facilitating the return of his child from India,” the prosecutor said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Charmaine G. Claxton agreed to order Singh released on bond, saying, “Hopefully this will all resolve amicably.”
Attorneys for the two sides wouldn’t comment on the possibility that the criminal charges against Singh might be dropped if he brings back the child.
His estranged wife watched proceedings from a bench in the courtroom.
Singh, a 36-year-old clinical scientist with medical device maker Medtronic, said little during the hearing. He wore a tan jail uniform, a black head covering and had his hands shackled in front of him to a belt. He’s been ordered not to contact his estranged wife, and officers kept him separated from her in the hallway as they led him onto an elevator. His release on bond was expected later Monday.
Kaur, a Collierville resident who works in software development for International Paper, has campaigned for her case on social media, filed numerous lawsuits and brought complaints to various agencies.
She said she pressured the FBI to act. “Ultimately, they were convinced and they went and picked (Singh) up,” she said, adding: “I feel bad for him, but he put himself (in the situation) there.”
They had married in 2008, moved to the Memphis area and in 2015 traveled to India for a wedding. Dealing with marital problems, they left their young son with the husband’s parents in India so they could work on their problems on their own for a time.
But the marriage got worse, they stopped living together, and the mother returned to India in 2016 to retrieve their son. She said her father’s parents blocked her, and she stayed for months in the country, filing numerous legal complaints.
She returned to the Memphis area and filed a lawsuit in a local court. The judge ruled the father should return the child, but his attorneys appealed to a higher court, arguing an Indian court should decide. The appeals court rejected that claim Thursday.
The arrest comes as India reviews its earlier decision not to sign the Hague Convention, an international treaty that governs child custody cases. Kaur has kept up a steady stream of posts on social media to pressure the Indian government to sign the treaty, which would obligate India to return abducted children to the country where they’ve been living.
A meeting on the Hague Convention last week in India ended inconclusively.
India has persistently failed to work with the United States to resolve parental abduction cases, the U.S. Department of State wrote in a recent report. As of December 2015, the state department was involved in 83 cases in India. The only other country with more open cases was Mexico, with 138. Unlike India, Mexico has signed the Hague Convention.