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02 March 2024

Reunite Indian kids with parents, India tells Norway


India urged Norway on Monday to act quickly to reunite two Indian children with their parents after Norwegian child welfare services put them into foster care eight months ago.

Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya lost custody of three-year-old Avigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya after Norwegian officials objected to their feeding the children by hand and sharing the same bed, according to press reports.

These are common practices in India, where they are seen as part of the bonding between mother and child.

Indian foreign minister S M Krishna told reporters he had urged the Norwegian authorities "to find an amicable and urgent solution to ensure that the children are returned to the biological parents".

The Norwegian Child Welfare Services has not divulged the reasons for its action, only saying there was an "emotional disconnect" between the children and their parents, according to the Press Trust of India.

Krishna said he believed that "given the children's young age, removal from the care of natural parents and to be placed in foster care till they turn 18... is an extreme step which should normally be taken as a last resort".

The parents are now fighting a legal battle for their children and have already lost their case in the country's lower court.

"It's like a nightmare," Sagarika Bhattacharya, the mother, told India's NDTV news channel. "We only hope that the Indian government will intervene and bring back our children to our laps."

Krishna said that he expected to reach a solution which would be acceptable to the children's families and to the Norwegian court.

In a statement released at the weekend, India said the children were being deprived of the "benefits of being brought up in their own ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic milieu" and must be reunited with their parents.

The case has attracted considerable attention in India in recent days, with many questioning the decision of Norwegian authorities.

Brinda Karat, senior member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) attacked Norway's child welfare services.

"The question is what gives the Norwegian authorities the right, whether morally or even (under) international rules to take away these babies from their parents?" she told NDTV.