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Norwegian authorities take away Indian children from parents for being ‘fed by hand’

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The story of an Indian couple’s children being taken away by Norwegian social services on objections of them being fed by hand and sleeping in their parents’ bed has attracted worldwide attention and the intervention of the Indian government.

In May last year, Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya’s children three-year-old Abhigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya were taken under protective care by Norwegian Child Welfare Services and they have been in foster care since. Norwegian authorities equate being fed by hand as force feeding and deem it inappropriate for parents to sleep with their children, according to a report Monday on IBN-CNN’s website.

However, the parents say this is a cultural issue. “(I told them) this is also a purely cultural issue. We never leave the children in another room and say goodnight to them,” the father was quoted as saying in The Daily Mail on Jan. 19.

The parents, who are not residents of Norway but on a visa which is due to expire in March, lost the case in the Scandinavian country’s lower court which ruled the children would stay in foster care until they turned 18 and could only be visited once or twice a year.

The father, Anurup Bhattacharya, is working as a geo-physicist for Halliburton in the city of Stavanger.

Norway’s Child Protective Service is reportedly a powerful organization which has been charged with being overzealous in its efforts to protect the rights of children.

“There has been a report in U.N. in 2005 which criticized Norway for taking too many children in public care. The amount was 12,500 children and Norway is a small country,” said the couple’s lawyer Svein Kjetil Lode Svendsen, in a report by NDTV.

Indian authorities have been in touch with their Norwegian counterparts in a bid to reunite the family and the case has attracted much media attention in India.

According to Lode Svendsen, the Indian embassy in Oslo issued a press release in early January strongly condemning the removal of the children.

And recently the children’s grandparents met with Indian President Pratibha Patel who assured them that all efforts are being made to solve the issue.

According to a report in India’s NDTV, Indian authorities are trying to persuade the Norwegians to hand over the children to the maternal grandparents after signing an undertaking in which they will state taking full responsibility of the young children.

Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna met Norwegian officials in Delhi on Sunday reportedly to discuss this option.

After the meeting Krishna was quoted by NDTV as saying he was confident that “a reasonable assessment of the situation” can be worked out “at the earliest.”
The parents are anxious as the date for their visa expiration nears.

“We’ve appealed to the government that we’ll leave everything and go back to India. This is a nightmare in our lives. We want to bring back our kids. We were normal parents. There could be several upbringing issues because the culture is different,’ the father was quoted as saying in a report by IBN-CNN.

The head of Child Welfare Services in Stavanger denies that cultural differences may be at the heart of the matter.

“It is not true that the basis of the case is how the children were fed or were they sleep. Child Welfare Services reject that cultural difference is the reason for the children being removed from their parents,” Gunnar Toresen said to Norway’s Nettavisen.

According the Lode Svendsen, negotiations are taking place to ensure the children will be able to return to India with their Parents in March.

“If we don’t find a solution, Child Welfare Services may seek residency for the children on a humanitarian basis. If the Stavanger Child Welfare Services chose to do so, it would be considered as a great insult to India,” Lode Svendsen said.

According to a 2011 report by the Norwegian Statistic Central Bureau, children from immigrant parents have a three-time greater likelihood of being removed from their homes than other children.

The report showed 19 of every 1000 children born to immigrant parents was taken away from their family homes between 2004 and 2010.