NRI kids row: India ups pressure on Norway

Seeking to put pressure on Norway on the issue over kids’ custody row, India on Monday sent a special envoy to Norway to meet the Foreign Minister.

New Delhi/Oslo: As opposition parties upped their ante and family members protested in New Delhi, India`s special envoy on Monday met the Norwegian foreign minister in Oslo and urged him to hasten the return of the two small children who were taken away from their NRI parents on grounds of alleged negligence.
Madhusudhan Ganapathi, Secretary (West) in the external affairs ministry, urged Minister Jonas Gahr Store to find an expeditious solution to enable the children`s an early return to India.

Ganapathi also met Reidar Hjermann, Ombudsman for Children in Norway, and Norway`s Minister of Children, Equality And Social Inclusion Audun Lysbakken in Oslo.

The Indian special envoy has had positive discussions in Oslo, Syed Akbaruddin, the external affairs ministry`s spokesperson, said in a tweet after the talks.

Norway assured to expedite the resolution of the issue, but no timeline was set for the return of the children, said official sources.

Ganapathi is also expected to meet the parents and visit Barnevarne`s facility in Stavanger where the children have been kept under foster care.

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 Barnevarne (Norwegian Child Welfare Services) last May on the ground that they were not looked after properly by their parents.

Last week, Norway applied for extending residence permits of the two Indian children, prompting India to launch a renewed diplomatic effort to expedite a solution to the issue which has sparked much outrage in India.

Over a month ago, India and Norway struck an agreement under which the parents named Anurup`s brother Arunabhash Bhattacharya as the primary caretaker of the two children. Arunabhash Bhattacharya is currently in Norway.

The government rushed the special envoy to Oslo as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Monday joined hands with the grandparents of the two children and held a sit-in near the Norwegian embassy in New Delhi.

Launching a four-day protest, they demanded that the Norwegian government send back the children so that they are reunited with their parents. The family members waved placards bearing the photographs of the children and shouted "Norway, send our children home".

"We want our children back home. This is our only demand. Their visas are expiring on March 8. They should be brought back before that. We demand that the Norwegian government should not delay the process and send our children back soon," said Manatosh Chakraborty, the children`s grandfather.

Anurup Bhattacharya`s family visas expire in March. The parents are worried that after that, they will find it tough to travel to Norway to fight for their children`s custody.

Last week, the Norwegian Childcare Services said it will take a decision by early March on whether the custody of the children can be awarded to their uncle.

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj asked the central government to put pressure on Norway and said her party would be raising the issue in the upcoming budget session of parliament.

"We will raise the issue in parliament if the children are not reunited with their parents before March 12," she told reporters while expressing solidarity with the grandparents of the children.

"There is no politics involved in this. All parties and every citizen are with them. The whole nation is agitated as they are our is very sad," she said.

CPI-M leader Brinda Karat agreed, saying: "The Norway government is working like a law unto themselves." She said the visa could be extended without the consent of the parents.

"The Indian government should put more pressure on them. UN has already criticised their law relating to children... This is kidnapping and nothing else," she said.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has made it clear that India would make "all out" efforts to ensure the early return of children to India.

"It is government of India`s firm commitment that the children must be given the opportunity to come to India," Krishna said last week.


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