Indian Activists Mobilize against Norwegian Barnevern

Photo : Sergey Kukota;. Russian organizations are protesting Norwegian Child Welfare Service (Barnevernet)

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While appreciating {India}’s diplomatic intervention in the Norway case where two Indian children were separated from their parents, a group of lawyers, social activists and those working in the area of child rights have demanded that the Union Government establish a formal mechanism for the return of these children.

Demanding that an intervention like the one in Norway be institutionalised, they denounced child confiscatory laws in countries like US, UK and Norway as “utterly draconian”.

Jurists, academics and rights groups led by retired High Court Chief Justices AP Shah and Mukul Mudgal and Brinda Karat have filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) regarding Indian children being confiscated in care proceedings abroad.

Taking note that even Indian citizens on temporary stay abroad are subject to confiscatory child care laws, the petition asks the NHRC to recommend that the Government of India establishes a formal and transparent mechanism for the return of Indian children caught in confiscatory child care proceedings abroad to their relatives in India, instead of being left in foreign state institutions or foster care, or being given away in forced adoption abroad.

The petition states that under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Indian children abroad have a right of return to India, a right to family life with their extended family and a right be brought up in their culture of birth.

The issue has aroused interest in other countries and the press briefing following the filing of the petition was attended by representatives from the embassies of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Bhutan and Russia.

Addressing the press conference, the retired judges cited systemic human rights violations in confiscatory child care proceedings in first world countries. Justice (rtd) Shah said a review of the Norwegian proceedings in the Bhattacharya case, which is included in the NHRC petition, showed that the allegations against the mother were patently baseless.

Noting the international attendance at the conference Mrs Karat said that India and like minded nations should join in calling for the return of children caught in confiscatory proceedings to their extended families in their home countries.

Suranya Aiyar, lawyer, said that after children, the worst victims of these intrusive and draconian laws were mothers who are unfairly blamed in almost every confiscation.

Background of the Case in Norway

Three-year-old Abhigyan and one-year-old Aishwarya, children of Anurup and Sagarika Bhattacharya, an {NRI} couple living in Stavanger, Norway, were taken under protective care by {Barnevernet} (Norwegian Child Welfare Services), which claimed emotional disconnect with their parents, and placed them in foster parental care as per the local Norwegian court’s directive.

The family had accused the Norwegian authorities with cultural misunderstandings and prejudice as they were taken for being fed by hand and sleeping in the same bed as their parents in addition to insufficient toys to play in the house. After Indian Foreign Ministry intervened the investigation, it was ruled children to be handed to children’s uncles, however the decision had been postponed several times.

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