India to intervene in ‘cultural’ child custody case

The Indian embassy is attempting to secure the return of two toddlers, who their parents say were taken away from them in Norway due to “cultural differences”.

The Indian children, aged one and three, were put in foster care last May because Norway’s Child Welfare group deemed that their parents were not taking “adequate responsibility”.

The couple, Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya, say they are “devastated” and that the decision was based on cultural differences such as sleeping in the same bed as the children and feeding them when they cry rather than at set meal times.

Anurup Bhattacharya, who has worked as a geo-scientist in Stavanger since 2007, told the BBC, “We have been honest and perfect parents. There could be upbringing issues because of cultural differences.” He added, “They asked the mother to breast feed baby Aishwariya at scheduled times as a routine instead of feeding her when she cried as is the practice in India.”

Barnevarne, the Norwegian Child Welfare Services, however, claims the couple were emotionally disconnected.

The controversial decision has caused the Indian government to seek an “amicable” solution. It is believed that SM Krishna, the Indian Foreign Minister, is hoping to meet with Jonas Gahr Støre, his Norwegian counterpart, to arrange the release of Abhigyan Bhattacharya and his younger sister Aishwarya.

“We are in touch with the Norwegian government and we are hopeful that an amicable settlement of this question could be arrived at,” Mr Krishna told reporters. “Whatever support is needed under the circumstances will be provided to the Indian couple,” he added.

Head of Child Welfare services in Stavanger, Gunnar Toresen, said the group has “a responsibility to intervene if measures at the home are not sufficient to meet a child’s needs. Examples are when there is every probability that the child’s health or development may be seriously harmed because the parents are incapable of taking adequate responsibility for their child,” he said.

The Indian embassy is calling for the children to be returned to India to live with extended family, where it says they will benefit from being in familiar surroundings with their own linguistic and cultural heritage.

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