India and Norway in diplomatic row over children put into foster care

Anurup Bhattarcharya with son Abhigyan

Any Indian parent one sees while bringing up the kids is that they first start feeding them with their own hands and the meal time with the little ones is such a focused activity that with a lot of patience the child is introduced to various tastes, textures and aromas of food. And similarly the other cultural difference is when you let the kids sleep in your bed till the child is securely and snugly asleep that only then it is moved to its own bed when fast asleep to create an atmosphere of security rather than leaving the child crying. Stories are read and moral education on part of the parent is imparted in closeness as the child falls asleep.

But this cultural difference has been overlooked as a Norwegian social worker took away two young Indian children and put them in the foster care because they slept with their parents and their mother fed them with her fingers ”“ both widespread and normal in India.

Indian government is embroiled in a serious spat with the Norwegian government as Norwegian officials have so far resisted calls for the children to be reunited with their grandparents in India pending an inquiry, and now India’s external affairs minister has called for the children to be repatriated.

According the news in papers Sushma Swaraj, parliamentary leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, has suggested that the decision betrayed an ignorance of Indian culture.

“If feeding a child by hand or a child sleeping with parents is an offence, then all Indian parents including me are guilty of this. The first principle of parenting is that a child should sleep with parents to instil in the child a sense of security.”

Norwegian child protection officers in Stavanger regarded these practices as evidence that their mother and father were unfit parents and took them into care last May after the elder child, exhibited behavioural problems in school.

They began visiting the family last year after their four year old son began behaving ‘erratically’ in class for an hour each week. They decided the children’s mother, Sagarika Chakraborty was suffering from ‘depression’, was ‘tired’ and had little ‘patience.’ She was ‘overfeeding’ the children and they were concerned that the boy Abhigyan, aged three, was sleeping with his father.

The father, Anurup Bhattarcharya, a senior geoscientist, told a television channel he had appealed to the Indian government to requisition Norway’s King to intervene, because Norwegian officials were unsympathetic. “The children’s mother is mentally fit. The day’s are passing quickly and we ask the government to speed up the process to get back our kids,” he said.

The mother’s father Manotosh Chakraborty told The Daily Telegraph the decision to take the children into care was “cruel”. “The way the parents were caring about their children is perfectly normal as per our social norms. In fact that’s how we brought up their mother,” he said.

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