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India Versus Norway: Diplomatic Entanglement over Bringing up Children

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“The Child is father of the Man,” reads the famous line from William Wordsworth. Begetting a child gives unfathomable pleasure. Bringing up the little one is an art. The making and unmaking of a child depends largely on the mother.feeding

Parenting is a task which requires great skill and foresight. Indians form a close-knit community. Every relation has an importance in the Indian family. The Indian mother, after a child is born, lives with the child all day long. The newborn is nurtured with great care, fed as and when it cries, sleeps nestling close to the mother. The children are put in separate rooms once they become self-sufficient and independent. The bonding between the child and the mother is special, enchanting and enhancing too. The proximity developed between the mother and the child lasts all through their life. Indians presume it as a healthy sign but in the West it is eyed differently.

Norway is in the headlines for separating the children of an Indian geoscientist from their parents since May 2011. Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya’s children, three-year old Abigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya, were taken under Norwegian protective care by the Norwegian Welfare services on the ground that the son slept with Churchillhis father and the mother fed the children with her fingers.

This allegation brings to mind an anecdote from a few decades back, when the former Indian President Dr. Radhakrishnan and the British Prime Minister Churchill met over dinner. As per the Indian custom, the President washed his hands well before eating. While Churchill was busy with spoon and fork, Dr.Radhakrishnan was eating with his fingers. Churchill asked the President to use the spoon and fork for better hygiene. The great scholar quipped, “No one else could use my fingers so I consider it most hygienic.” What would have happened to Dr. Radhakrishnan if he had visited Norway now? He would have been put in a centre and alienated from his kith and kin. Dr. Radahakrishnan is dead and gone. He has escaped the Norwegian authorities.

Norway’s Child Protective Service is a powerful organization which has been charged with being overzealous in protecting the children. The Norwegian Statistical Bureau, in its latest report of 2011, shows that 19 of every 1,000 children born to immigrant parents were taken away from their family homes between 2004 and 2010.

In a report by IBN-CNN, Mr. Bhattacharya says, “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 Indian Government has taken up the issue and forced the Norwegian government to release the children from Protective Care. Their 27-year-old uncle would take custody of the children and the expenses for his trip to Oslo would be borne by the Indian government.

Each country has its own culture. Each country has its own theory and convictions regarding sex, children, marriage, habits, and behaviour. That which is approved in one part of the world may be strongly condemned in another region. Customs and traditions which seem offensive to one sect are appreciated highly by the other.

Shakespeare said that discretion is the better part of valor. Let us practise this ideal by honouring all cultures and values.

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About meenas17

  • Klara

    PRESS RELEASE FROM CHILD WELFARE SERVICES, STAVANGER, NORWAY

    Norwegian embassies, Norwegian governmental agencies and the local authorities of Stavanger have the last few days received numerous requests for comments regarding a child protection case in Stavanger concerning two children who are Indian citizens. We are aware that the children’s parents, and their supporters, have launched a media-campaign in India where they have presented their version and given their description of the reasons for the intervention of the Child Welfare Services.

    Examples given by the parents for the intervention are criticism of feeding methods and sleeping arrangements. The impression given is that Norwegian authorities have intervened on basis of cultural prejudice and that the case is a result of cultural insensitivity and as such an insult to India and Indian way of life.

    The Child Welfare Services are governed by the Child Welfare act. All decisions to remove children from their parents’ custody are made by a family court (County Committee) based on an assessment from the Child Welfare Services and hearing from the private party (the parents). In this process the parents are entitled to free legal service.

    The decision to remove the two children from their parents’ custody was taken by the County Committee on the 28th of November. The committee’s decision was unanimous in finding “that the conditions for care order for…… have been met”. Both the parents and the Indian Embassy in Oslo have received an English translation of the ruling. In the ruling of the court there are no references to the explanations given by the parents to the media as grounds for the ruling.

    The parent’s lawyer has launched an appeal before Tingretten (District court). A date has not been scheduled for the new trial.
    As head of the Child Welfare Services I most strongly deny that this case in any way is based on cultural prejudice or misinterpretation. I am unable to give any comments regarding the particular grounds in this case because of our duty of confidentiality.

    On a general note I can say the following: The Child Welfare Service has a responsibility to intervene if measures in the home are not sufficient to meet a child’s needs. The act lists strict conditions for when a care order applies. Examples are when a child is mistreated or subjected to other serious abuses at home, or 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. I would also like to underline that the Norwegian Child Welfare Act applies to all children in Norway, regardless of the child’s nationality, citizenship or cultural background.
    The Child Welfare services are always committed to finding a solution that will be in the best interest of the children. We are therefore at present in dialogue with the Indian embassy and the parents’ legal representative to find a solution that we can recommend to the appeal court.

    Stavanger 21.01.2012

    Gunnar Toresen Head of Child Welfare Services Stavanger, Norway

  • Meena

    The article is based on the details released by the press and websites.It has been written after careful examination of the representations made by the parents and grand parents.
    Happy to note that there is no discrimnation of colour,creed and culture.

  • minati roy

    Separating children at this tender age is no doubt abusive to them. Parents cn be asked to undergo counselling, find out inadequacies in their childcare methods, attend proper child upbringing courses and child welfare personnel can interact to train them to better parents. Depriving an one year old from breast milk, exposing her to animal milk product must be considered a form of child abuse.

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