Stavanger, Norway: The nightmare for an Indian couple ended after a Norwegian court ruled that their two young children will be handed over to the children’s uncle. The children, with their uncle, are expected to be back in India in a few hours from now.
The children’s mother and their grandparents, both paternal and maternal, are already in India. Their father, however, is still in Norway.
Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya have fought a long legal battle with Norwegian authorities to get their three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter back to the family. During the hearing in the case involving two Indian children, which was held in Stavanger District Court on April 17, the Child Welfare Services (CWS) and the children’s parents and the uncle, Arunabhas Bhattacharya, submitted a joint statement to the court stating that they agreed to the solution that the children’s uncle would be their guardian. The CWS, which has kept the children in foster care since May last year, made a recommendation to the Stavanger district court that the children’s custody should be given to the uncle and they should be allowed to return to India.
“I am very relieved today,” said Anurup Bhattacharya after the verdict was announced. “I am glad the year-long nightmare is finally over… Hope the children are back soon. I congratulate the Indian government for the excellent work and I hope others in distress also get relief,” said CPM leader Brinda Karat, who had extensively campaigned for the release of the children.
Trouble began when the Bhattacharyas noticed their son had been showing symptoms similar to autism. The workers of the kindergarten where the three-year-old used to go reported his condition to the CWS which began observing the family closely ostensibly to offer help even inside the privacy of their homes. The parent’s interactions with the children were recorded on camera and were analysed. The CWS later concluded that the boy was suffering from attachment disorder which they said was a result of a disconnect between the mother and child; they also said the child had witness violence between the parents.
The CWS workers started then interfering over how their children should be fed or where and with whom they should sleep. They asked the father to take leave from work to help build the relationship.
On May 11, 2011, when three CWS workers came to the Bhattacharya home, an argument broke out with the mother. One of the workers said the little girl should be taken outdoors as the atmosphere at home was too tense, but a little later the parents were told on the phone that their daughter had been in emergency foster care. On the same day, their son who was away at the kindergarten was also taken away directly to an undisclosed location. He too had been put in emergency foster care. A court battle followed but the children have not been returned to the family’s care since.
In November 2011, a family court in Stavanger declared that the children will stay in foster care till they turned 18. The CWS refused to give the custody of the children to any family member. Sagarika’s parents then started a campaign back in India and sought the help of the Foreign Ministry which intervened and got the case reopened.
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