The nightmare of two Indian children separated from their parents by Norwegian childcare authorities may end soon following an agreement between India and Norway today to hand over their custody to a Kolkata-based uncle.
Under the agreement which puts a closure to an eight month-long custody row,three-year-old Abhigyan and his one-year-old sister Aishwarya will be given to their uncle,Arunabhash who lives in Kolkata.
“I thank the media… I have not seen the agreement and the conditions,” Arunabhash said adding he would bring the children back.
The children’s grandfather Ajay Bhattacharya too expressed his joy after receiving the news about the agreement. “I am very happy,” said an emotional Ajay.
The agreement was firmed up by the Indian government through its mission in Norway with the Municipality of Norway,Norwegian Childcare Services,the parents (Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya) and their lawyer,official sources said.
Arunabhash has agreed to the parents’ wish and is aware of the responsibility and he will be the children’s primary caretaker.
The sources said Barnevarne (Norwegian Child Welfare Services) has approved and agreed to give the children to the uncle.
Arunabhash will soon leave for Norway and all expenses of his travel would be borne by the government,they said.
Under the agreement,the parents will have visitation rights,they added. The sources said the family has to provide information in response to any inquiry by the family and child welfare ministry.
Abhigyan and Aishwarya were taken under protective care last May by Barnevarne,which claimed emotional disconnect with the parents,and placed them in foster parental care as per a local Norwegian court’s directive.
The Bhattacharyas say cultural misunderstandings are to blame — the Norwegian authorities objected to the children being fed by hand and sleeping in the same bed as their parents.
The other reasons cited were use of unsuitable toys and clothes besides insufficient room for the children to play in the house.
The NRI couple’s desperation for a quick resolution also stemmed from concerns that their visa for Norway expire in March.
After that,fighting a legal battle there would prove to be extremely tough,they said.
Following the plea by the family,External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had spoken to his Norwegian counterpart and requested them to find an “amicable and urgent” settlement.
India expressed its concerns to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the children were being deprived of the undoubted benefits of being brought up in their own ethnic,religious cultural and linguistic milieu.
“I think the diplomatic pressure has helped,” Svein Michelson,Norway Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
The couple were staying in Stavenger,about 500 kms from the Norwegian capital.
Anurup works as a geo-scientist with American firm Halliburton.