This Article is From Jan 21, 2012

Indian couple's Norway nightmare: Family appeals to President to intervene

New Delhi: As an Indian couple battles in Norway for the custody of their two children - taken away and sent to foster care by the Child Protective Services - the grandparents of the children, accompanied by CPM leader Brinda Karat, met President Pratibha Patil today.

"This is a kind of kidnapping. They are refusing to co-operate with the Indian government. We are scared and waiting in anticipation. The President has assured us that she will take action," said Shikha Chakraborty, grandmother of the children.

Last May, Norway's Child Protective Services took away Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya's children, a three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter, and placed them in foster care.

The drastic measure was taken because, according to the child protective services, the couple were not bringing the children up properly. What did they do wrong? They fed the children with their hands and the infants slept in the same bed as the parents. (Comment here)

"My son was sleeping with my husband. They said he should sleep separately from your son," said Mrs Bhattacharya.

"Feeding a child with the hand is normal in Indian tradition and when the mother is feeding with a spoon there could be phases when she was overfeeding the child. They said it was force feeding. These are basically cultural differences," said Mr Bhattacharya.

Recently, the Indian Embassy in Oslo stepped in and an officer even met the children, though the parents were not allowed to.

Norway's Child Protective Service is a powerful body charged with protecting the rights of children living in difficult family situations. But there are many reports of excesses.  

"There has been a report in UN 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 Svein Kjetil Lode Svendsen, lawyer.

The Bhattacharyas' visas expire in March. If they don't get their children by then, the couple will be forced to stay on.

"What we have thought is we are not going to apply for visa for my children. But if the case doesn't get sorted we have to apply because we cannot come back to India without our children," said Mr Bhattacharya.

It's a nightmare that, at this moment, seems without end.