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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014
No excuse for child abuse
Hindustan Times
New Delhi, December 04, 2012
First Published: 22:34 IST(4/12/2012)
Last Updated: 22:37 IST(4/12/2012)

It may seem callous to many, but the Indian government has learnt from past mistakes and has refused to make the case of the alleged abuse of an Indian child at the hands of his parents in Norway an official matter. The Indian couple has been convicted by a Norwegian court of abusing their seven-year-old child who, it seems, suffers from attention deficiency and hyperactive disorder. The child had apparently complained to his school teachers that he had been scolded by his parents and threatened to be sent back to India. On further investigation the Norwegian authorities found that he had burn scars and had been hit several times with a belt.

Many have expressed the opinion that this is a question of the Norwegians not understanding Indian culture where parents are strict with their children. This is not a question of being strict, this is a case of child abuse. No culture accepts violence against a defenceless child and clearly the Norwegians have found enough evidence to convict the couple. In an earlier case, involving two children of the Bhattacharya couple, the Indian authorities took up the issue of the Norwegian child welfare service taking the children away from the parents on charges, among other things, of emotional disconnect. This became something of a cause célèbre in India with many experts wading in to accuse the Norwegians of racism and cultural intolerance. As in the case of the convicted couple, one of the Bhattacharya children, too, had severe psychological problems. It is downright foolish to imagine that the Norwegian authorities are targeting Indians in particular. Norway is home to many immigrant communities and the authorities there don't stand to gain anything by making unfounded allegations against Indian parents. However, it is quite clear that the laws regarding the care of children and child abuse are considerable stronger than in India and are strictly implemented. The parents in question are well educated and they cannot have been unaware of the laws of the country they are living in. Cultural differences cannot be an excuse to flout the law.

While it is true that the children will suffer some trauma from being separated from their parents, it would be untenable to let them remain vulnerable to abuse. The Indian government has offered help to the parents in the current case and that is the appropriate thing to do. To escalate this into a diplomatic incident does not serve the interests of anyone. Where the government can perhaps extend help also is to ensure that the child gets the necessary treatment and counseling he needs in India where he is at present with his grandparents. Emotionalism should not get in the way of doing what is best for the child who has already been traumatised.


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