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Norway NRI couple urges media restraint
SUSENJIT GUHA  Kolkata | 29th Jan 2012

nurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya, the parents of toddlers Abhigyan and Aishwarya have urged the Indian media not to criticise Norwegian values and child protection laws. In an exclusive chat with this newspaper over phone from Stavenger in Norway, Anurup said that criticism could jeopardise the chances of their children from being formally handed over to his brother Arunabhash by the Norwegian family court. The children, now aged one and four years, were taken away from them eight months ago on account of "bad parenting" and placed in the custody of foster parents by the local child welfare service, Barnevarne.

Anurup was disappointed at the way a national TV channel anchor demanded what right the Norwegian authorities had to decide what good parenting was all about. "We request the Indian media to stop attacking Norwegian culture and values and let the court complete the settlement after my brother arrives," Anurup pleaded.

"The repeatedly wrong broadcast that the children will come back to their parents soon can affect my brother from getting custody after he arrives in Norway," he said.

According to Anurup, "The Norwegian press is closely monitoring Indian media reports and has not taken too kindly to the media-generated criticism."

Arunabhash, who will apply for a Norwegian visa on Monday, is expected to get custody of the children within days of his arrival in Stavenger.

The children will be handed over to Arunabhash by the County Committee, or family court, in the presence of Anurup and Sagarika, their lawyer Svein Kjetil Lode Svendsen, the Indian ambassador, Ravindra Kumar Tyagi and the foster mother, MariAnn Svendsen. But this will not be done before they are confirmed about his legitimacy and confident that he will ensure their physical and psychological wellbeing.

Arunabhash, who is a dentist by profession in Kulti in West Bengal's Asansol, will have to spend a few weeks at Svendsen's home to get acquainted with the children before being allowed to take them back to India. Anurup and Sagarika want a smooth handover to Arunabhash as soon as possible since their visas will expire in March.

When asked where the children were staying with their foster mother, Anurup said, "We were not told, but learnt that they were 40 miles away from us."

Meanwhile, in a press release, Gunnar Toresen, the head of Barnevarne, has categorically denied any cultural prejudice or misinterpretation in taking away the children from their biological parents, saying, "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."

Anurup, a geo-scientist working with the Norwegian arm of US' Halliburton, however, said, "The 300-strong Indian community in Stavenger is shocked at the incident." His Norwegian colleagues in Halliburton are providing him with moral support.

Monotosh and Sikha Chakraborty, the children's maternal grandparents who live in Kolkata, told this newspaper, "We stayed for three months with my daughter and son-in-law after the incident, but were not allowed to meet our grandchildren."

Sikha Chakraborty said that the diplomatic intervention to release their grandchildren began after Brinda Karat took them to meet External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and President Pratibha Patil.

Earlier pleas from Anurup and Sagarika to the Indian high commission in Oslo for help resulted in a casual visit by an official, Balachandran. The grandparents also thanked West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for talking to S.M. Krishna.

 
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