Stavanger, Norway: In what seems as yet another obstruction in the custody battle of one-year-old Aishwarya and three-year-old Abhigyan, Norwegian child welfare authorities have sought fresh legal guarantees and assurances from India on "urgent basis".
The two children have been in foster care since May last year after child welfare officials in Norway decided that their parents - Sagarika and Anurup Bhattacharya - were negligent. After the India government's intervention, the authorities had agreed to recommend to a court in Norway on March 23 that the children be placed in the custody of their uncle Arunabhas Bhattacharya. "It has been concluded that care of the two children should be awarded to the brother of the children's father enabling him to take the children back to India," a statement released by Norway's Child Welfare Service (CWS) last month read.
But in a fresh letter written to the embassy of India now, the CWS has asked for legal documents guaranteeing that appropriate care and treatment would be given to the boy who has special needs. They have also sought assurance that the children's uncle would continue to be their legal guardian in India. These documents, they say, ought to be submitted at least one week before the court hearing, failing which the children will have to stay on in Norway. (Read letter here)
Though the letter says that the Norwegian authorities are seeking the guarantees in writing only to "facilitate the process of reaching a solution", there are fears that this could possibly delay the handing over of the children to their uncle. The two toddlers have met their parents only thrice since May last year.
Anurup, a geologist, moved to Norway in 2006. Trouble began at Abihgyan's school where teachers found him distant. Visits by local authorities scaled up into a number of charges against the parents - Sagarika was reported as being clinically depressed, though no medical test was conducted. Anurup was evaluated as a parent more committed to work than to his children. Abhigyan it was said suffered from attachment disorder. The authorities claimed his reactions suggested he had either been hit or had been witnessing physical violence at home. The patents deny these charges.
The Indian government was nudged into intervention by desperate visits to Delhi by Sagarika's aged parents. They held protests, met President Pratibha Patil and petitioned the media for assistance. As a result of the campaign, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna promised them that their grandchildren would be brought back to India "at any cost." India also rushed a special envoy Madhusudan Ganpathy to meet Oslo authorities and ask them to expedite the process.
Through the last month, the Norwegian Child Welfare Service has been working on positioning Arunabhas, a young dentist from West Bengal, as the children's guardian. Norwegian officials have allowed him to meet Abhigyan and Aishwarya several times but under supervision.