Trampling human rights in Norway – Swapan Dasgupta

Swapan Dasgupta“In the matter of bringing up children, what the Norwegian authorities are demanding is not emotional sustenance but homogenisation. These are the hallmarks of a totalitarian system that believes children belong primarily to the state. Norway is not a totalitarian state but its social codes resonate with checklists of uniformity.” – Swapan Dasguta

Anurup Bhattacharya and his wife.The establishment of an all-embracing “nanny state” has been a cause of concern to many sensible, right-thinking citizens of the European Union (EU).

In Britain, to cite just one example, there is anger and exasperation over the way apprehended illegal immigrants have been able to avert deportation by falling back on the EU’s human rights legislation. The so-called right to family life has been successfully used by those who have broken the law to prevent constituent nations from acting against them.

So absurd is the situation that illegal immigrants were even able to cite the ownership of a cat and membership of a local cricket team to earn for themselves the right to stay in a country where they had overstayed their welcome.

It is against this bizarre backdrop of an over-regulated state, replete with gratuitous codification of daily life, that we must view the strange case of Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya, Indian citizens resident in the Norwegian town of Stavenger.

In May 2011, the child welfare department of the town took the couple’s two children, a son aged two and a daughter then barely five months old into custodial care. The Bhattacharyas were accused of dereliction of parental responsibilities.

Indian food is eaten with the hand, stupid!What were the faults of the Bhattacharyas, a normal middle-class couple with the husband working as a geo-scientist with Halliburton, a well-known US company? In the courts where the case was heard, the account of parental negligence was provided. These included the absence of separate rooms for the children, the lack of appropriate toys, the absence of a separate diaper changing table and the fact that the son slept in the same bed as the parents and was fed by hand — which allegedly amounted to “force feeding”. The mother was also guilty of breast-feeding the daughter in an unsuitable way.

According to a report in an Indian newspaper, filed from Oslo, the authorities argued in court “that when the mother breast-fed the infant, she put her on her lap without holding her, holding the head against the breast but not close to her body”.

Taken together with the fact that the mother had admitted to once slapping her son — a prohibited act under Norwegian law — the Child Welfare Service concluded that the mother failed to look after the children’s emotional needs. The larger interests of the children, it felt, were better served by placing them in foster homes.

The city court of Stavanger agreed with the Child Welfare Service and sent the children to foster homes. As an act of generosity, it allowed the parents to see their children — one of whom was still being breast-fed — twice each year for two hours. In a further revision by the Country Board of the Child Welfare Service it has now been stated that the children must remain in foster homes till they are 18 years of age but would be allowed to spend three hours each year with their parents in three separate visits of an hour each.

S. M. KrishnaThe sheer inhumanity of the Norwegian state defies belief. What happened to the Bhattacharyas is not merely the result of the perverted thinking of authorities that believe they know better than the natural parents of children.

It is also an outcome of insular Europeans not knowing and not bothering to appreciate the fact there is no prescribed way of bringing up children. That a child does not have a separate room and the fact that diapers were changed on the bed rather than on a table of a prescribed size are niggling issues. These have more to do with their parents’ financial priorities than a bid to wilfully scar the children emotionally.

Indian children routinely share a bed with their parents or grandparents. This is often a function of space or gestures of affection and they haven’t resulted in India becoming a nation of the emotionally traumatised.

Equally, if feeding a child by hand constitutes an inhuman act of force-feeding, more than 95 per cent of Indian parents would be found guilty of cruelty. Norway cannot dictate how an Indian family chooses to eat. By this absurd logic, Westerners in India should be advised that toilet paper is unhygienic and environmentally unsound!

Ambassador of Norway to India Ann Ollestad.Like many prosperous but insular countries, the authorities in Norway possess an infuriating sense of sanctimoniousness, believing that their habits, customs and worldviews are the only routes to well-being. There is no common sense view of right and wrong.

In the matter of bringing up children, what the Norwegian authorities are demanding is not emotional sustenance but homogenisation. These are the hallmarks of a totalitarian system that believes children belong primarily to the state. Norway is not a totalitarian state but its social codes resonate with checklists of uniformity.

It is heartening that the Government of India has responded to the sense of outrage at home by summoning the Norwegian ambassador to South Block. It is said that a solution may be worked out with the grandparents of the children giving a helping hand to the Bhattacharya couple.

In other words, Norway will be given a face-saving way out that stops short of its authorities admitting that what happened to the Bhattacharyas was a gross violation of their human rights, particularly their right to a family life and their right to pursue cultural practices. India has a moral duty to rescue two of its children who have become victims of judicial abduction. – Deccan Chronicle, Chennai, Jan. 27, 2012

2 Responses

  1. Bhattacharya kids handed over to uncle – Vaiju Naravane | The Hindu | Paris | 23 April 2012

    “I feel immense relief and immeasurable joy that my children have been released and will be returning to India today [on Monday],” Arurup Bhattacharya, whose children, Abhigyan (3) and Aishwarya (1), became a cause celebre in India after they were placed in foster care by Norweigian authorities last May, told The Hindu in an interview.

    “My only wish now is that the media, particularly the electronic media, stop interfering in our lives and leave us alone. My children are not animals in a menagerie that they should become the object of voyeurism and idle curiosity. Abhigyan has serious problems and we would not like anything to upset the fragile equilibrium he has been fighting to achieve,” Mr. Bhattacharya said.

    The Norwegian District Court in Stavanger on Monday announced its verdict saying it had agreed to hand over custody of the children, who were placed in care on grounds of parental neglect, to the children’s paternal uncle Dr. Arunabhas Bhattacharya, a 27-year-old dentist from Asansole. The children left Norway later in the day accompanied by the uncle, the foster father, a care worker Tove Roisland Hernes and Consular Officer Balachandran and his wife.

    However, Mr. Bhattacharya said that while the months spent in foster care had helped his older child Abhigyan in some respects, his condition had deteriorated in others. Abhigyan is said to be suffering from Attachment Disorder, a personality disorder that develops in very early infancy when a child fails to receive adequate care and is unable to form a deep attachment with its principal caregiver that subsequently allows it to explore the world.

    “I notice that Abhigyan’s head banging has worsened. He has become even more stubborn and adamant than before. Yes, he does make eye contact now. But he has also started hitting his little sister, something he never did before,” Mr. Bhattacharya said. Placing the children away from their natural parents (even if there was marital discord in the family and the mother was unable to cope allegedly due to psychological problems) had not proved useful at all, Mr. Bhattacharya suggested. Placing both the children in alien foster environments had actually worsened the boy’s condition, he said.

    “My brother has taken them back to their own culture. He is their legal guardian now and is shouldering a great responsibility and a very heavy burden. The Stavanger Child Welfare Service (CWS) is confident that he is fully capable of giving the children the care and assistance they need,’ Mr. Bhattacharya said.

    There was some delay in handing over the final court document to Mr. Bhattacharya. “The delay was caused by the fact that the court went over the agreement again and took time to study it. I handed the court document to my client,” Svein Svendesen, Mr. Bhattacharya’s lawyer told The Hindu.

    However, there was a total refusal on the part of the Child Welfare Service to admit that it could in any way have mishandled the Bhattacharya case. In a press statement on the view taken by the court, the Stavanger Municipality said: “The grounds for removing the children from the care of their parents were and continue to be present, but it is no longer necessary for them to stay with a family in Norway as agreement has now been reached that the children are to grow up in the care of their uncle and will not be living with their parents.”

    Baby Abhigyan with uncle Arunabhas Bhattacharya in Norway on Monday. Photo courtesy: NDTV
    Baby Abhigyan with uncle Arunabhas Bhattacharya in Norway on Monday, 23 April 2012. Photo courtesy: NDTV

  2. It is much much worse in Norway (and Sweden) than many in other countries think.
    More and more frightened, but yet they just see a little bit!
    Norway is much much worse!
    Kidnapping of children, is a big industry in Norway. A grotesque instrument for criminals in and around the public administration.

    Norwegian so-called “child protection service” is a grotesque criminal activity, as a tool for criminals in and around the public administration. There are very many children, parents and families who have had their lives destroyed by this grotesque business that threatens everybodys dearest and nearest values. While there are many who also benefits from and who earns on the kidnapping, catch hold, harassment, false documentation, torture, exploitation and out-plundering of children, parents and families. A very very big and central problem in Norway. In Sweden, Denmark, England and some other countries too.

    Read more about this, for example, on the following links:

    * http://africanpress.me/2007/02/20/barnevernet-child-protection-services-in-norway-destroy-families-says-professor-skaanland/

    * http://www.fampo.no/cps.html

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