'Child snatch' spat with Oslo
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- Published 24.12.11
New Delhi, Dec. 23: A diplomatic tiff is brewing with Norway ignoring the Indian foreign ministry’s requests to look sympathetically into the case of an NRI couple whose children were taken away by Norway’s childcare services in May.
South Block officials said the authorities in Oslo had so far ignored the Indian mission’s explanations of cultural differences in child-rearing. Norwegian embassy officials in Delhi were unavailable for comment.
Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya, who are Indian citizens, say Norway’s childcare service Barnevernet took away two-and-a-half-year-old Abhigyan and four-month-old Aishwarya on May 11, the boy from his kindergarten and the girl from home.
The children are now with two different foster care families, and the Bhattacharyas are allowed to meet them only twice a year for an hour till the children turn 18.
The couple say the childcare workers gave “bizarre explanations” for taking the children away.
“They said the mother was incapable of taking care of the children ---- that our daughter looked at the faces of other people around her instead of her mother’s was evidence that we were not taking proper care of her, and that our son remained aloof in the kindergarten and banged his head on the floor,” said Anurup, who has been living in Norway for the past six years and married Calcutta girl Sagarika in 2007.
Foreign ministry sources said the Norwegians appeared impervious to their arguments. They indicated that New Delhi was taking the issue up diplomatically so that Norway showed more consideration and let the couple return to India with their children.
“They are unwilling to appreciate cultural differences. It is common in Norway for the childcare services to take children away from dysfunctional families and put them in foster care. But this family isn’t dysfunctional,” a South Block source said.
After the children were taken away, the couple went to the local police station. “My wife’s crying and shouting was taken as another instance of her being unstable and unfit to raise children,” Anurup said.
The couple moved court. The lower court’s verdict was in their favour but they lost when Barnevernet appealed. Their respective parents came to stay with them and requested the authorities to put the children under their care but in vain.
Anurup claimed the authorities even suggested that the couple split and then they might consider restoring the children to their father.
There are nearly 10,000 Indians in Norway, of whom about 4,000 are Indian citizens, most of them highly skilled professionals.