Kolkata, Jan 23: In what could become a diplomatic row, an Indian couple has been separated from their kids since May last year and the children have been sent to foster care by Child Protective Services citing ridiculous reasons.
The parents of the Indian couple went all the way from Burdwan, West Bengal to meet the President Pratibha Patil to take up the issue with the King of Norway.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna called the Norwegian Ambassador in Delhi and requested him to allow the couple to have their kids back. Krishna has also asked the Indian Ambassador to Oslo R K Tyagi to take up the matter with the Norwegian government.
The ridiculous reasons for which the kids have been separate from the Indian couple are: (1) they were feeding their kids with their own fingers, and (2) they were allowing the kids to sleep with them.
"At the highest levels in our diplomatic sectors, we are in touch with the Norwegian government. And we are hopeful that an amicable settlement of this question could be arrived at," Krishna said. Whatever support the family needs will be provided, he added.
In May last year, Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya lost custody of their toddlers - three-year-old Avigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya - after Norwegian authorities objected to them hand feeding the children.
Norway's Child Protective Service were also concerned that the children slept in the same bed as the father.
The parents are allowed to meet their kids ONLY ONCE in six months, and the current visa of the couple expiring in March, they are a harried lot.
Says Gunnar Toresen, Head of Child Welfare Services from Stavanger, Norway: "The Child Welfare Service has a responsibility to intervene if measures at the home are not sufficient to meet a child's needs.
"Examples are when there is every probability that the child's health or development may be seriously harmed because the parents are incapable of taking adequate responsibility for their child.
"The Norwegian Child Welfare Act applies to all children in Norway, regardless of the child's nationality, citizenship or cultural background."
The Bhattacharyas have already lost a legal case against the issue and the children will be in the care of foster parents until the age of 18.
The kid's maternal grandparents appeared on India TV to appeal to the Norwegian authorities and the Indian government to allow the couple to get back the kids, so that they can return to India.
Both Avigyan and Aishwarya can't eat on their own, no can Aishwarya, who is one-year-old can walk.
Kids sleeping with their parents, and parents feeding their kids with their own hands is common in India.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna spoke to his Norwegian counterpart and summoned their Charge d'Affairs Aslak Brun to reiterate India's concerns over the separation of two children from their natural parents by the Norwegian Childcare Services which placed them under foster care.
"Given the children's very young age, removal from the care of their natural parents and to be placed in foster care till they turn eighteen is an extreme step which should normally be a last resort. The circumstances as known to the Indian government do not appear to justify such measures in the present case," Krishna told reporters.
He said he has requested the Norwegian government to find an "amicable and urgent solution" in the matter. He also said that CPI-M leader Brinda Karat has also talked to him regarding the issue.
However, the minister did admit that there was a "problem" since the matter was before the Norway Court and the Norwegian judicial system was seized of the matter and therefore, it has to be settled through Indian mission and other stakeholders.
After his meeting with Krishna, Brun said, "We have a very close and good dialogue and both the governments have best interest of the children at heart.
"Through this constructive and close dialogue, we are very hopeful we will have settlement that will be both acceptable within Norwegian legal system and also in accordance with the legitimate concerns of the Indian government." However, he parried questions on the time frame.
When asked if the issue could be resolved before the expiry of the visa of the parents of Abhigyan (3) and Aishwarya (1) who were taken away by Barnevarne (Norwegian Child Welfare Services) claiming emotional disconnect, Krishna said he was hopeful that it can be worked out.
"Let me emphasise, we have very cordial bilateral relations with Norway and they are ready to accommodate Indian government within their jurisdiction and if it is a visa issue, it can be worked out," he said.
Meanwhile, Barnevarne has sought concrete details on January 20 regarding how the children will be looked after, who in the extended family would be the children's primary care giver and how Indian authorities will follow up the matter and ensure that the children's needs are met.
In Oslo, the Norwegian foreign ministry said "authorities are working hard to find a solution."